So how will the vote go down? It’s unclear. There are three new City Council members on the board, including two – Keith Young and Brian Haynes – who were fairly vocal about the need to slow the development of new downtown hotels. The third new City Council member, Julie Mayfield, accepted a campaign donation from the developer, John McKibbon, then returned it.
Councilman Cecil Bothwell has voted consistently against big downtown projects such as the one proposed, while Councilman Gordon Smith has said he’ll only vote yes if the developer agrees to specific conditions, such as paying a living wage.
I have no idea where Mayor Esther Manheimer and Councilwoman Gwen Wisler stand. Tune in tonight for the vote. The meeting starts at 5 p.m.
Original post Dec. 18: Asheville City Council will vote on whether this project moves forward in January. Meantime, I’m catching up on this press release:
McKibbon Hotel Group announces several project updates for the well-known BB&T Bank building located across from downtown Asheville’s Pack Square. The project, which was unanimously approved by the Asheville Downtown Commission on Nov. 13, is being developed by John McKibbon, an Asheville homeowner whose first business venture in Asheville occurred 20 years ago, and chairman and president of Tower Associates, Glenn Wilcox, a resident of Asheville for more than 50 years. McKibbon and Wilcox are also currently building the AC Hotel and a 350-space garage with public access at the intersection of Biltmore Avenue and College Street, which is slated to open in 2016.
John McKibbon is an active member of the Asheville community by serving as a board member for the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and through his involvement with a number of local non-profit organizations. In addition, McKibbon is personally collaborating with local partners to address the shortage of affordable housing in the city of Asheville. Wilcox has been an integral part of downtown Asheville’s development and is active in the community through his involvement in the Better Business Bureau of Asheville and Western North Carolina, Mission Healthcare Foundation, Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.
McKibbon Hotel Group has selected Reese Vanderbilt & Associates of Atlanta, GA, as the project architect, a design-oriented architectural firm with vast experience in hospitality, mixed-use, and residential projects. The project, which was originally announced in 2013, is making progress to begin construction when the office leases expire in early 2016.
“We will transform the 50-year old tower into a beautiful structure that adds to the great architecture of this city,” said John McKibbon. The project will boast a contemporary design that also incorporates architectural elements from surrounding buildings in downtown Asheville. Warmer tones of stone that incorporate Asheville’s existing urban fabric will replace an aging steel façade. The tower will feature decorative metal panels and a prominent mural, which will both be created by local artists. The building will receive a new exterior skin featuring a mixture of glass and solid materials. The bottom, middle and top of the tower will each incorporate materials that contrast the glass, creating defined sections that add to the building’s design. Due to the location of the tower and its visibility from all sides, architectural elements of interest will be included on all four sides of the building, not just the front.
There will be numerous improvements made to the surrounding area, which will fully maximize the potential of the site. The new site design will enhance the urban environment by creating pedestrian-friendly connectivity and activation with widened sidewalks, outdoor dining and additional retail space along College Street.
When fully open and leased, the project will have a positive economic impact on the Asheville community. McKibbon Hotel Group expects the project to employ up to 100 full-time employees whose starting wages will meet or exceed the Asheville living wage. Property taxes will also increase substantially following the building renovations and change of use.
Detailed plans for the 18-st0ry development, which include McKibbon’s first independent hotel, consist of the following:
• Restaurant, bar, and retail space for lease along Pack Square;
• Retail spaces for lease along College Street;
• Substantial modern meeting spaces, gym, and offices on the second and third floors;
• Boutique hotel guest rooms on seven floors;
• Residences on the upper floors, with adequate on-site storage for residents;
• On-site parking for residents and guests and additional parking for hotel guests at the AC Hotel parking deck, which will include public parking.
In order to align with downtown Asheville’s commitment to local businesses, the retail space included in the project will not be leased to national chains. The hotel will be an independent brand with a unique interior design and a name that incorporates Asheville’s history. McKibbon Hotel Group will announce the new name of the hotel before the end of the year. Once the hotel is open,
room rates will be in the mid-$200 range.