Word on the street: Foam and Fabric on Biltmore in downtown Asheville to close


A Facebook friend who shops regularly at Foam and Fabric,  at 175 Biltmore Ave. in downtown Asheville, reports that the business plans to close soon after 46 years in business. I’ve heard from other sources that a hotel company has been considering the property as a spot for yet another new downtown hotel. An employee at Foam and Fabric told me that the owner of Wild Wing Cafe has purchased Foam and Fabric; no word on plans.

The other hotel under construction right now is a Hyatt Place hotel, going up at the corner of Haywood Street and Montford Avenue. (The former Three Brothers Restaurant location.)

Here are a couple of quick photos from the two other downtown Asheville hotels that are actually under construction right now. First, at the corner of College Street and South Charlotte Street, The Hilton Garden is a proposed 7-story, 108,220-square-foot hotel that will be built as part of a new complex including known as 311 College St. Demolition of the old T.K. Tripps restaurant was recently completed.

Both of the photos from the construction sites are from a couple of weeks ago. Construction is moving fast at both sites.

The third hotel that is actively underway is the new hotel on the Biltmore Estate. I haven’t been out to view the site recently, but I hear construction is moving right along.

More as I get it.


Marissa December 18, 2014 - 9:03 pm

Unfortunately, the people who work at Foam and Fabric (most for over 20 years) were given 90 days notice that their jobs were going to be disappearing. The owners of the building will do very well, but the employees will be out of luck and out of a job.

Murphy December 4, 2014 - 8:11 am

There is plenty of land… the parking lot between Foam and Fabric and Wild Wing is part of the F&F property… also if the developers purchases the old funeral hoome/office building on the corner there would be more than enough for a hotel with a parking garage as well.

Elizabeth Schell December 2, 2014 - 10:17 pm

Sorry to hear about Foam & Fabric closing. They were my go to place for stuffing for my sock monkeys and for finding great upholstery fabric or funky affordable cottons for cloth bags. Plus the foam that they would cut for you. Very friendly people. I hope they are getting a good price and can retire nicely after all their years of great service to our community.

luther blissett December 3, 2014 - 11:45 pm

Totally agree. Not exactly what you associate with modern downtown retail, but they’ve always been knowledgeable and friendly. I wish them well.

Former Reporter at WYPN December 2, 2014 - 9:03 pm

First off, that’s a really, really small parcel of land for a hotel. I think someone’s putting you on.

Second, there are honestly worse places to build a hotel to spur development. That could be a nice addition to the south end of the South Slope.

hauntedheadnc December 3, 2014 - 11:28 am

Combine it with the old segregated hospital property and it becomes a fair-sized parcel.

Former Reporter at WYPN December 3, 2014 - 1:44 pm

Is that the old funeral home and law office that’s now for sale? If so, yes, that might make for a nice piece of property. Parking might still be a challenge unless they purchased nearby property not adjacent to the site.

It would be a nice location for a South Slope anchor of that part of downtown.

jtroop December 4, 2014 - 10:05 am

Agreed, that would be a really neat space if it was combined. As it is currently laid out, those properties are too broken up. and South Lexington Ave. is a very odd road to maneuver these days…

Jill December 2, 2014 - 8:38 pm

I am sorry Foam & Fabric is closing. I’ve been a customer for many years. There is very little in the downtown area unless one is looking for specialty beer or a restaurant or two. I suppose it is my age but I miss having medical offices close to the hospitals and more stores offering every day routine stuff.

Barry Summers December 2, 2014 - 7:48 pm

Last month Asheville set a new record for the number of tourists visiting. High hotel prices are obviously not discouraging tourism.

How many new hotels are in the pipeline now? 6? 8? Isn’t anybody worried about a glut when the price of gas goes back up & tourism slows down?

10 – 12 years ago, they couldn’t build condominiums fast enough, and the City leadership was even willing to sell a big chunk of our downtown park to the Grove Park Inn to turn it into high-end condos. And then, whoops! We built too many condos. Stewart Coleman’s heirs are probably thanking their lucky stars that protests and a lawsuit delayed breaking ground on the Parkside condos. Had that project gone according to schedule, they would have been having a Grand Opening in a city with too many condos already, and the Great Recession starting.

Anyway, it’s not like we can really stop it. It’s a market decision – and as we always know, markets are never wrong. One would just hope that whoever owns that land will choose to sell it to someone who will build something the city really needs, like workforce housing, and not just look for the highest bidder so they can cash out.

ashevillain December 2, 2014 - 8:48 pm

Not sure where you’re seeing that there are too many condos. (?)

I just did a cursory search on Zillow and found only 24 condos for sale in downtown and the immediately surrounding neighborhoods. There’s no way to tell how many are unoccupied but even if all 24 were vacant I still would not say that we have too many condos. Occupancy rates are through the roof at all price points in this town.

Barry Summers December 2, 2014 - 9:39 pm

I was referring to the late-2000’s. I’m sure that there’s more, but here’s one comment thread from 2008 showing it was being discussed:

bit.ly/1pQvl8m (drag & drop)

And even then, the number of vacant condos was understated because many had been bought as investments, which had yet to go back on the market as the economy crashed.

ashevillain December 3, 2014 - 10:25 am

Well, yeah…obviously late 2000’s were not a good time to try to sell a condo. However, it seems that the occupancy rate [even for the highest priced condos] is currently very high, which reinforces the developer’s foresight. Were they built maybe a few years too early? OK, sure. But in the developer’s mind it’s better to be a few years too early than even a few months too late.

In the case of these current hotel projects…they can’t be built fast enough right now. Is it what I would prefer to develop if I had the capital? No. But until that occupancy rate starts dropping (not holding my breath) they’ll keep building them as fast as they can.

And, having had some experience in this realm, I’ll say that large capital expenditures for these types of developments rarely occur when the general public thinks they make sense.

indie December 3, 2014 - 9:59 am

Obviously, markets ebb and flow but the “glut” is soon absorbed in the next era.

Why don’t you guys get something built you think we “need” instead of just yapping?

I think we’ll just keep using the market—sounds a lot better than having hauntedheadnc be the decider.
His, “I’m pretty much okay with increasing the inventory until we catch up to what we had then” is a classic.

hauntedheadnc December 3, 2014 - 10:52 am

*That’s* what you thought was classic? I’m disappointed… I thought comparing the hotel fad to a fungal bloom was more classic.

Here’s the thing. Hotels are great and good and fine. Breweries are great and good and fine. However, there’s room for more, and only so much land to use downtown. A community consists of more than hotels and breweries, but due to a crippling lack of imagination and an utter inability to look beyond their little developer blinders, nothing else is getting built downtown. Where is the office space? Where is there space for industries that are well-suited to an urban setting? Where are the studios needed by the artists who attract some of the tourists? Where is the residential space that would be filled with tax-paying residents? Especially, where is the workforce housing needed by the people who actually live and work here?

Nowhere, that’s where. Developers are too busy making room for people who only play here. Everyone and everything else is getting pushed aside.

Oh, and as for why people who see other needs don’t sally forth and fill them? That’s because we’re too busy paying our bills on our pittance Asheville salaries. We don’t have millions of dollars brought in from somewhere else to enable us to feed on this city.

One more thing, since I’m on a good tear here. It’s interesting that a city whose architecture is so varied and beautiful and varied that it attracts people to come look at it only gets a slew of interchangeable, “contemporary bland” boxy hotels for its troubles. Developers are too unimaginative to build anything else, and too unimaginative to do anythin other than follow along in the latest development fad.

luther blissett December 3, 2014 - 11:40 pm

Yes. We talk a lot about how downtown avoided the homogenizing horrors of the 60s and 70s, and we can argue about the BB&T building, but there’s nothing more built-to-a-template than chain hotels where the corporate concept is everything. Especially when half of the hotels are glorified parking lots.

indie December 2, 2014 - 3:44 pm

Why don’t people who want to have something other than a hotel built, get together and make it happen?

Downtown Asheville has fewer hotel rooms today than it did 100 years ago. Prices are very high and additional supply is welcome.

hauntedheadnc December 2, 2014 - 10:57 am

Another hotel?

Hey, developers! Here’s a radical notion — how about, instead of even more places for tourists to sleep, how about some offices for residents to work in or apartments or condos for residents to live in? I know — workplaces and living spaces — it’s crazy, but it just might work!

Barry Summers December 2, 2014 - 12:02 pm

Don’t even joke about that!! Everyone knows that if we don’t get a new hotel on that property (and every other piece of land that becomes available downtown), we’ll all die shivering in the dark.

hauntedheadnc December 2, 2014 - 4:11 pm

You know, I don’t mind hotels. I really don’t. For the first five I was okay with the trend — enthusiastic, even. I realize that we still don’t have as many hotel rooms downtown as we did in the 1920’s, and I’m pretty much okay with increasing the inventory until we catch up to what we had then.

What really galls me is the fact that there are development fads in Asheville. Build one brewery and fifteen more are suddenly rising. Build one hotel, and a dozen more sprout like fungus on the lawn after a rain. For God’s sake, are developers truly *that* unable to look and see other needs that could stand some filling? There’s only so much land downtown, and in my opinion more of it needs to go toward boosting the supply of housing, office space, and space for industries like software firms or artist studios.

luther blissett December 2, 2014 - 6:42 pm

For God’s sake, are developers truly *that* unable to look and see other needs that could stand some filling?

You answered your own question. There’s more shame among developers in trying something new and it not working out than to be the last one jumping on the bandwagon just as the wheels come off.

Modern-spec office space, on the other hand? Good luck with finding that downtown. You’d almost think there was a conspiracy among landlords and developers to ensure that demand outstrips supply.

Craig C December 2, 2014 - 8:45 pm

Artist studios… now there’s a real money making opportunity. For landlords. Seriously, most artists can’t afford high rents and no developer is interested in putting money into low-rent properties. For that reason, artists will always populate the margins, and the margins always shift.

hauntedheadnc December 3, 2014 - 10:58 am

Yes, Craig C, I can see the logic in shifting those marginal artists right out of the market and right out of town. It’s certainly not as though the arts are of any importance to the economy, it’s certainly not as though art is one of the things we shill to bring in all those tourists to fill all those hotels.

Levy December 2, 2014 - 12:04 pm

Seriously! and how about a stadium style movie theatre in N Asheville/Weaverville, and a real art supply store!!!

Barry Summers December 2, 2014 - 12:17 pm

Stop it!! You’ll anger the Development Gods!! Everybody:

“Ho-tel! Ho-tel! Ho-tel! Ho-tel!”

Weavervilleman December 2, 2014 - 6:16 pm

I could go for the Stadium Style Movie Theater in Weaverville! Make the one in Biltmore Jealous!

AVL LVR December 3, 2014 - 10:34 am

We need an Imax theatre- perhaps attached a revamped WNC Nature Center merged at new location with the Colburn Earth Science Museum.
We also need an AMC Theater with their cushy recliners.

Barry(Soetoro): Grove Park Inn would have built beautiful condos. They shouldn’t use park land when there are so many other eyesores to tear down. Asheville’s tourism boom will continue as long as it add more things to do and tears down the trailer parks and other eyesores (I’m looking at you Biltmore office building downtown)and lowers break-ins and panhandling downtown.

Asheville’s tourism experienced a long lull because it started to look like West Virginia. It lost a lot of the class of the late 1890s-1920s. Tourism will continue to do well as long as we add more attractions (a Blue Ridge Greenway paralleling the Parkway will be one- some people avoid the Parkway because of the stupid cyclists on it) and replace the eyesores.

Big Al December 4, 2014 - 7:50 am

“Asheville’s tourism boom will continue as long as it….lowers…panhandling downtown.”

When has (or will) Asheville do this? I have been here six years and there are far more bums aggressively trolling the streets than in 2008.

Barry Summers December 4, 2014 - 10:06 am

And yet we’re told Asheville recorded it’s busiest tourism month ever in October.

Neither the “bums” or the high room rates are discouraging tourism.

AVL LVR December 4, 2014 - 10:33 am

The economy has recovered to the point people have enough money for regional vacations, but not necessarily enough $$$ to visit say Greece or Egypt (which at the moment due to political turmoil they wouldn’t visit anyways). Population growth in the Atlanta and Charlotte metro areas have helped surge weekend visitors. Growth in Asheville’s retirement community likely saw out-of-town family visits. Besides the economy recovering and population growth, Asheville’s advertising budget has increased. Still if they come here and are harassed or cannot find an affordable hotel (dumpy Days Inn in Candler was going for over $140 on an October weekend), they will not return and will spread a bad word about the town which will discourage future visitors.

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