At a swank Wednesday night party hosted at Posana Restaurant in downtown Asheville, hotelier John McKibbon and McKibbon Hospitality celebrated the beginning of the construction project to remake the former BB&T building, the city’s tallest building (18 stories), into a structure that’s home to luxury condos, a boutique hotel called Hotel Arras, two new restaurants and retail space.
The suit-and-tie crowd of movers-and-shakers rubbed elbows, scooped up glass of free-flowing wine, noshed on delicious eats hustled out by the Posana kitchen that were said to presage offerings at the new restaurants, and cheered on McKibbon’s multi-million dollar project that will remake the heart of downtown Asheville. Here are a few take-aways from the soiree:
-The name of the building is now officially The Arras. There’s the Hotel Arras for the boutique hotel, and Arras Residences for the condos, which are selling for between half a million dollars and $1.5 million. McKibbon said Wednesday that nearly 25 percent of the luxury condos had already been reserved. The building is set to open in 2018.
-Glenn W. Wilcox Sr., 83, who is always present, and always honored, at events surrounding the McKibbon project, said he’s honored to be “50-50 partners” with McKibbon in the remodeling of the building, which McKibbon bought for $7.5 million three years ago. (Press materials stress that the Arras project is being co-developed by McKibbon Hospitality’s Chariman John McKibbon and Tower Associates Chairman and President Glenn W. Wilcox Sr.) Wilcox was the first person in the old office building, which opened in 1965, and was the last person out. He’ll be the first person to walk into the new building, McKibbon said. Wilcox bought the building in 1988.
–“To new beginnings!” That was the toast McKibbon led after the speeches and a short video showing off The Arras.
-Cleveland Construction is the general contractor on the Arras project.
-McKibbon Hospitality is working with two local brand experts. The first is Tungsten Branding, a Brevard-based branding company founded by Phil Davis, a former advertising agency executive in Tampa, Fla. The second is 7 Ton Design, a graphic design company based in West Asheville. 7 Ton opened in January 2015. What started as a place for Kelly Kelbel, Bridget Elmer, Beth Schaible, and Ele Annand to share space and pursue their separate business interests evolved into one unified new business. Kelbel and Elmer moved on, and Jennifer Rozzelle joined Schaible and Annand. The studio was “founded with the goal of sharing space, equipment and camaraderie. We specialize in letterpress printing, graphic design, bookbinding, calligraphy, painting and shenanigans,” the team says in an online blurb.
-McKibbon told the crowd that “Arras” is the name of a town in northern France that was known for its textile industry many years ago. “Arras” also means “tapestry.” That idea informs the branding, with Arras reflecting “the aspirational nature of Asheville, weaving together a vision of imagination, inspiration, and possibility,” according to a press release.
-The Arras will include two new independent restaurants, and Peter and Martha Pollay offered a few details as to what those restaurants will offer when they open. The Pollays are the owners of Posana Restaurant, where the Wednesday night bash was held. Just a few weeks ago, the Pollays and McKibbon announced their partnership on the restaurants inside The Arras, as well as a new rooftop restaurant/bar at the new AC Hotel under construction a stone’s throw away from The Arras. Peter Pollay said the northside restaurant will feature big plates of food meant to be shared at a table and that it will have more of a Mediterranean flair. The restaurant slated for the south side of The Arras will be more bar-centric, featuring a ton of local craft beers, as well as craft cocktails, he said. Throughout the party, Pollay urged people to keep trying the food that was offered up, noting that the eats were hints as to what was to come at the new eateries.
-The Pollays announced that they’ve created a new hospitality group called Mandara Hospitality.
-The only current Asheville City Council member that I saw in crowd of invitees Wednesday was Councilwoman Julie Mayfield. As folks will recall, during the last City Council elections, Mayfield accepted a campaign donation from John McKibbon during the course of a campaign which included vigorous debate about downtown growth and the arrival of new hotels. Mayfield, who was elected last November, announced that she had returned the campaign donation following her election but before the City Council vote on approval of McKibbon’s Arras project in January. Mayfield said she wanted to “dispel any perception that I am beholden to anyone but the residents of this city.” Mayfield voted to approve the McKibbon project.