On Wednesday, one of those newly elected City Council members – Julie Mayfield – announced she was returning a campaign contribution from the project developer, John McKibbon. Here’s Mayfield’s announcement:
I have returned the donation made to my election campaign by John McKibbon. With a McKibbon Hotel Group project potentially coming before council so quickly on the heels of the campaign, I have the opportunity to dispel any perception that I am beholden to anyone but the residents of this city. As an elected official, I will make decisions according the law and, where discretion is allowed, according to what I understand to be in the best interest of the community and the City of Asheville.
Last week, the project met early approval from the Asheville Technical Review Committee. The next stop is the Asheville Downtown Commission on Friday, then a Nov. 19 stop at the Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission before a final planned December vote before Asheville City Council.
Mayfield, as well as newcomers Brian Haynes and Keith Young will be sworn into office on Dec. 4 and will join Council members Gordon Smith, Cecil Bothwell, Gwen Wisler and Mayor Esther Manheimer. Haynes in particular was especially vocal about slowing the growth in Asheville, including the addition of new hotels.
Could the new make-up of Asheville City Council vote down the McKibbon plan to turn the BB&T into the Vandre Nouveau Hotel? Anything is possible at this point, though it seems unlikely. There were no serious objections raised at the TRC meeting. We’ll have to see what the reception is at the Downtown Commission and P&Z. The project has been in the works for more than a year.
The building is the city’s tallest, and the massive renovation job will will require the removal of the entire shell of the building. The renovation of some 200,868 square feet of space will create 133 hotel rooms and 39 residential condos; two new restaurants; retail and office space. (One of the restaurants will be tied to the hotel, and the other will be a separate, private restaurant.) A new three-level parking deck will be built on the space adjacent to the building that is now a surface parking lot.