Asheville hotelier: We’re moving on Embassy Suites plan despite city appeal of court decision

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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An Asheville hotelier who took the city to court last year over a new hotel proposal and won says he’s moving ahead with his plans despite the city’s appeal of that decision.

Shaunak Patel of PHG Asheville says in an email that he’s “very confident with our case” and “may risk starting construction prior to resolving the state appeal.”

Patel’s company pulled demolition permits recently to tear down the former Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office building at 192 Haywood St. That’s where he wants to built a new 8-story, 185-room Embassy Suites, complete with pool, rooftop bar and parking deck. The demolition will start within 30 days, Patel writes, and expects to be pouring footings for the new structure by August.

A year ago, Asheville City Council voted to deny Patel’s request for a conditional zoning permit for the Embassy Suites, which would sit right across Haywood Street from a Hyatt Place hotel his company built a few years ago.

Asheville City Council, in a quasi-judicial hearing, decided the hotel proposal did not meet six of seven required legal standards. Those standards included showing that it is in harmony and scale with its surroundings and that it was consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The Embassy Suites proposal came up for a vote at a time of heightened public concern about the impacts of increased tourism in Asheville, and in appealing Asheville City Council’s decision to Superior Court, the developer argued that City Council members had already made up their mind prior to the hearing.

Superior Court Judge William Coward ruled in PHG Asheville’s favor in October and, in an order dated Nov. 2, 2017, instructed the city to issue the condition use permit at its next public meeting.

Asheville City Council met in closed session in December to discuss the lawsuit. In his email, Patel writes that the city has decided to appeal that decision to the N.C. Court of Appeals. “City Attorney Robin Currin then filed a stay on the property earlier this month to avoid having to issue the Conditional Use Permit,” he writes.

Patel goes on to say that his company wants “the Citizens of Asheville to know we hear their frustrations about hotels.” Here’s more:

I’m in full support of preserving Asheville’s character, but it must come from a process change. It cannot come simply from a subjective City Council vote on anything over 20 rooms. Asheville has to develop a process modeled after Greenville and Charleston, SC. Limit or slow growth of certain uses by making zoning changes. Reinvent the Design Commission so they can help align the projects with Asheville’s character (if that is what people want). Business owners and citizen alike must come together to solve the affordable housing issue. These monetary asks are insufficient and do not solve the problem. We are here to help and be a part of the community in whichever way we can.

Patel adds that he’s “still hopeful for a settlement as it benefits Asheville and avoids costly legal costs to us and the taxpayers.”


Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Barry Summers January 23, 2018

    Patel goes on to say that his company wants “the Citizens of Asheville to know we hear their frustrations about hotels.”


    Hotel builder who is trying to force another hotel downtown despite the express wishes of City Council, who are acting because of the frustration of citizens… this guy wants us to think he gives a s*** what we think? That’s rich.

    “I want you to know I hear your frustration at having to hand over your wallet at gunpoint, but if your local police were only better at their job, I wouldn’t be able to get away with this. I am committed to working with you to address these concerns, and BTW, I am also committed to getting away with this.”

  2. MIke January 22, 2018

    I hear the arguments on all sides, but at the end of the day anything is better than what is there now. I had the same thought about the hotel that replaced that terrible pee stained parking garage. Yes measured growth, but as long as we are replacing very replaceable infrastructure I don’t have a problem with it. This part of downtown has zero foot traffic draw and this new build could draw another usable corridor of downtown, which as of now, is not a part of downtown being utilized effectively. If there is growth, let it be there.

    1. luther blissett January 22, 2018

      “at the end of the day anything is better than what is there now. ”

      Really? The old sheriff’s office is a decent, honest brick building. You’ll miss it when it’s replaced by another fugly cookie-cutter hotel.

      “This part of downtown has zero foot traffic draw and this new build could draw another usable corridor of downtown”

      No it won’t. Nothing about tall buildings near interstate ramps with at best unwelcoming ground-level facilities is conducive to foot traffic, as you can tell by people shuffling along that bit of Haywood St from Hotel Indigo and the Hyatt Place towards the Grove Arcade.

      Mr Patel couldn’t care less about “Asheville’s character” beyond the amount of profit he can extract from tourists while sitting in Raleigh.

      1. Gary Woods January 23, 2018

        “Mr Patel couldn’t care less about “Asheville’s character” beyond the amount of profit he can extract from tourists while sitting in Raleigh.”

        One should assume because you know Mr. Patel so well, that you can make that generalization about his character correct?

        Your statement is so full of hyperbole and misguided that it’s complete nonsense.

        1. luther blissett January 23, 2018

          Is it okay to judge people by their actions? Slapping a second fugly cookie-cutter hotel next to your first fugly cookie-cutter hotel in a city you live far away from… that seems like a action one can judge.

          “Preservation for the sake of preservation is not a solid argument.”

          But replacing it with something worse is? C’mon, tell us that it won’t like garbage in 30 years. We need something to laugh about.

          1. Gary Woods January 24, 2018

            First – Your description of the proposed building as “fugly” is subjective, however, you are entitled to your own opinion but that’s the extent of it as it will have no bearing on the process because it’s your opinion.

            Second – Do you know what type of materials will be used for the proposed hotel? Also “cookie cutter” would imply a structure of similar design within the immediate area. Can you identify which structure that would be? Just curious.

          2. luther blissett January 24, 2018

            “Also “cookie cutter” would imply a structure of similar design within the immediate area. ”

            No, it would imply structures of similar bland branded design found in the bland branded zones of too many cities, dropped straight from the CAD database onto a site.

            Like McMansions, it is a design aesthetic in which the floor plan comes first and the exterior is pasted cheaply around it. It’s the architecture of nowhere. It is deep mediocrity.

            Again: tell us that it won’t look like garbage in 30 years.

          3. Gary Woods January 24, 2018

            I love the copy and paste scripted cliche responses. May I suggest that you build us a structure reflecting the appropriate Asheville architecture and then let’s revisit in 30 years to see if it looks like garbage. Actually we could compare the two buildings. Until then the aesthetics of the proposed hotel works for me.

          4. luther blissett January 25, 2018

            “I love the copy and paste scripted cliche responses.”

            …is a sad dodge. But we’ve already established that you’re fine with tasteless lumps o’building. The next few years are probably going to be great for you. Enjoy the boneless skinless chicken breast.

        2. hauntedheadnc January 24, 2018

          I believe Mr. Blissett is referring to the building’s “Charlotte Boring” style of architecture, which has indeed infested the city as of late. Excellent examples of Charlotte Boring (so called because of its extensive, near exclusive, presence in that city and a contributing factor its acclaimed mediocrity) can be found at the 12 South Lexington condos, the 21 Battery Park condos, the Indigo Hotel, the condos currently rising on Patton across from the homeless shelter, the condos currently rising on Asheland across from the bus shelter, and all new hotels on the city’s commercial strips such as Tunnel Road, as well as the Country Inn and Suites at Westgate Shopping Center.

          Charlotte Boring is an architectural style that attempts to be the equivalent of a new apartment — plain, inoffensive, and utterly forgettable so as not to clash with anything, and which goes out of its way to not make a statement. It typically involves great amounts of styrofoam and EIFS fake stucco in its construction, as well as vast seas of beige paint. Again, the point is to not stand out and to contribute nothing to the city’s architectural stock while simultaneously feeding off of the appeal of attractive historic structures.

          I found out some years ago, when a local architect was planning a large Charlotte Boring-style urban village downtown, that architects become very irate when asked to build a structure that actually contributes to downtown’s architectural vitality rather than parasitically feeding off of it. I recall that architect also basically admitting that modern architects have neither the skills nor the funding to build interesting buildings anymore and we should stop expecting them to do so.

          1. hauntedheadnc January 24, 2018

            Goodness, I can’t believe I forgot to mention the Hilton Garden, Hyatt Place, and the county office building on College Street. All three are also excellent example of Charlotte Boring.

          2. Gary Woods January 24, 2018

            Again all subjective ( although I do agree with you on the stucco – Cambria Hotel – yuk) but give me so called “Charlotte boring” then some lame attempt at trying to capture the design of Douglas Ellington and other great architects and from that era with every new structure.

            The faux designs can be hideous (and yes my opinion). Even too many buildings of that era’s style or character would become boring if there is no diversity among them.

            Also, I am not so naive to think that buildings of that style, in their truest forms, would cost a lot more money and it’s easy for us to say – build this way when we’re not even in the position to have acquired the land let alone build a structure. That is the reality.

            Most of these new buildings, rather we agree or not, do contribute to the vitality of downtown in their own unique way.

    2. luther blissett January 23, 2018

      Specifically: the Basilica (1905) is brick; the Carolina Apartments (1918) and First Church of Christ Scientist on N French Broad are brick; the Battery Park Apartments (1924) are brick, the Vanderbilt Apartments (1924) are brick. The last two were built as hotels.

      The sheriff’s office is more recent (1984) but was built to fit with the prevailing architecture of that part of downtown.

      Is the fugly lump that PHG proposes to put on that site going to be useful and worth preserving in 30 years, let alone nearly 100?

      1. Gary Woods January 23, 2018

        So just because the building is brick, it has character? Give me a break. The old sheriff’s office does not even come close to the architectural style or level of the other buildings you mentioned. Preservation for the sake of preservation is not a solid argument.

      2. Jimmy January 25, 2018

        Square brick buildings are brutalist and uglyl. Basically, the old style before the BB&T building. Honestly, the city would look better without those ugly, old brick apartment buildings. The Basilica can hold its own as its unique. But if its not art deco, its not worth preserving. No architectural significance whatsoever.

  3. Helen January 22, 2018

    We are not Greenville or Charlotte, SC we are Asheville NC, why do we have to mimic those completely over developed unlivable places. I hope City Council wins on this issues and this project to made to scale down.

    1. Charles January 22, 2018

      Helen I think you misread what he said. He did not say Charlotte, SC, he said Charleston, and by the way both Charleston and Greenville are VERY livable cities!

    2. Walter Sobchak January 22, 2018

      I agree, but “we” (the regular, working folks) don’t have much if a say in things. As you know, this is all about money.

      What irritates me is people move to Asheville, because they *seem* to like it. But, after they’re here, they then want to change it from what it was (that attracted them here) to the way things were before (at the place they just left).

      I don’t get it. Why move here? Why not stay where you were?

  4. Andrew Fletcher January 22, 2018

    Design Commission? I don’t believe there is one.


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