A large downtown Asheville mixed-use project that includes a 150-room hotel is headed to the Asheville Planning & Zoning Commission on Wednesday after meeting approval from the Asheville Downtown Commission in July.
The large project, dubbed Create 72 Broadway, calls for the construction of a 9-story structure that include a 150-room hotel and 30 residential units, including six units priced as “affordable” at 60 percent of the city’s average median income, as well as 75 parking spaces for hotel guests and 34 spaces for the residences. Retail space and an art gallery are included in the design, as is other public art on the building’s the outer shell.
The hotel proposal arrives as Asheville City Council prepares to consider a moratorium on new hotel construction, a response to a hotel building boom that started about five years ago. Right now, all hotel proposals go to City Council for final approval.
In voting 6-3 in favor of the project, members of the Asheville Downtown Commission found that the project generally met the commission’s design guidelines. (Under its “mandatory review-voluntary compliance” rules, the commission acts as an advisory group. Those rules also apply to the Planning & Zoning Commission review.) Commissioners suggested some changes to building materials and had questions about stormwater management and green roof features. Commissioners also praised the art components of the project, which the developer has touted.
(Commissioners Kimberly Hunter, Pam Winkler, Dane Barrager, Stephen Lee Johnson and Chairwoman Sage Turner voted in favor of the project, while Andrew Fletcher, Ruth Summers and ex-officio member Brian Haynes, an Asheville City Council member, voted against.)
In a separate discussion, commission members talked about the project’s general impact, and voted unanimously on a list of specific recommendations. Those recommendations were to: include more housing units and fewer hotel rooms; provide for home ownership rather than just residential rental units; improve the quality and design of the green roof; use a red brick material on the Broadway side of the buildings; use a higher quality of EFIS as a building material; provide parking for staff; pay a living wage; use a non-white roof cover; and make sure an alley way will adequately serve waste management needs.
In addition, the commission recommended that City Council conduct a “saturation study” to see if Asheville’s central business district was saturated with hotels.
During the discussion, commissioners expressed continued worries over the wave of new hotels being built across Asheville.
“I’m very concerned that if we don’t leave space for some other types development, we are going to see many empty spaces in the future,” Fletcher said.
Winkler said she agreed with Fletcher. “A lot of us are fed up with the proliferation of hotels,” she said.
Turner said she had thought a lot about the project before them and about “the proliferation of lodging use in downtown and in Asheville, and whether we’ve reached tipping point.”
“We can’t get away from our tourism roots at this point,” Turner added, as she emphasized that she hoped City Council would conduct the saturation study the commission had recommended.
In terms of the Create 72 Broadway project, “I feel like if we’re looking at hotels individually, and not looking at overall proliferation, we’re looking at a great project,” she said. “This is one we should say yes to.”
Greensboro developer Birju Patel, of BPR Properties, is teaming up with Asheville architect Peter Alberice of MHAworks Architecture and Asheville civil engineer Chris Day of Civil Design Projects for the Create 72 Broadway project.