Downtown Asheville hotel project approved; city’s tallest building to be remodeled

Jason Sandford

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

  • 1

bbt_mckibbon_remodel_hotel_2015Asheville City Council on Tuesday voted 5-2 to approve a multi-million project to turn the city’s tallest office building into a home for a boutique hotel, condos and new restaurant and retail space. New City Council members Brian Haynes and Keith Young voted against the proposal, while City Council members Cecil Bothwell, Julie Mayfield, Gwen Wisler, Gordon Smith and Mayor Esther Manheimer voted for it.

David Forbes of the Asheville Blade, who tweeted Tuesday night’s proceedings, covered the big vote.

Approval of hotel, condo project at old bb and t bldg passes 5-2, Haynes and Young against #avlgov

The 18-story bank building took about two years to build and opened in 1965. It was known then as the Northwestern Bank Building. (It became the BB&T building in 1988.) The modern marvel ranked as the tallest building in Western North Carolina at the time. Today, it’s regarded as one of the city’s ugliest buildings.

The remodeling project proposed by John McKibbon of McKibbon Hotel Group is now known as One West Pack Square. The hotel proposal has been on the table for months, but its approval has come during a wave of new downtown hotel construction that’s well underway, and some residents have expressed disapproval. Some of that disapproval was seen at the polls last November with the election of Haynes and Young, who were vocal about the need to slow down city development, especially hotel development.


Jason Sandford

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

  • 1

You Might also Like


  1. Barb January 20, 2016

    Selene, Good call, but you didn’t mention the I. M. Pei building on Pack Square which also showcases a glassy facade. When I look at old photographs of Pack Sqaure, it breaks my heart how all those charming buildings were knocked down. There is no correct scale left in the place, except the older buildings on the southwest corner. For me, it’s such a visually disturbing place. I wish the art museum had gone non-glassy.

  2. Matt January 17, 2016

    I’m curious why Haynes and Young voted against it. Were there further conditions they would have voted for? Are they against the space’s renovation outright? Are there Asheville city subsidies going into this project that should be going into public facilities (housing, sidewalks, transit).

    Maybe I should look for a transcript of the meeting.


    1. Barry Summers January 17, 2016

      Video of the council meeting: (drag & drop)

      Haynes comment is at 3:08:00

      I don’t believe Keith Young made a statement, but I think his reasons were similar to Haynes.

    2. Matt January 17, 2016

      Thanks, Barry. Now I know how to see the meetings.
      (For some reason your response showed up on my iphone browser but not on my laptop browser….)

      1. NFB January 18, 2016

        John Boyle’s column in Sunday’s ACT has a quote from Councilman Young about the reasons behind his no vote.

  3. Chris Power January 13, 2016

    I’ll be happy to see this eyesore get spruced up!

    1. Barry Summers January 13, 2016

      Or lopped off. But I guess there’s no profit in that. So shove it into a shiny new dress & lots of lipstick.

  4. Life Long Democrat January 13, 2016

    Maybe the way to help ameliorate the tension between the City and the Republican-controlled General Assembly is to elect some Republicans to the City Council. Are there any moderate Republicans who could win votes of Democrats who are not happy with the excesses of the Bothwell machine?

  5. Barry Summers January 13, 2016

    Do we have a new name yet? I’m still pulling for

    “Dalle avec rouge à lèvres”

  6. Josie January 13, 2016

    At least they’re repurposing a building rather than tearing down and building new — and paying attention to the need for infrastructure with all this development. Just wish city council had paid attention before all the other hotels were approved….

  7. Gordon Smith January 13, 2016

    Thanks to everyone who advocated for a socially just renovation of the BB&T. The people demanded living wages, only local businesses in the retail spaces, using local artists, contributing to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and getting on the side of the people in the fight for an equitable distribution of the occupancy tax. I made those conditions of my approval. The applicant saw the writing on the wall, and he agreed to do all of these things and more (he will also invest $750,000 in the sidewalks, hire local people, and participate in the city transit Passport program).

    Cecil Bothwell made the motion to approve the project, and it passed 5-2. There is a new standard for downtown development, and the precedent was set last night. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!

    Back in September, Ellen Frost and three other Commissioners sided with the hoteliers, agreeing to collect the tax exactly the way they wanted. I realized the only way we’ll ever win this fight is by getting a majority of Tourism Development Authority people willing to publicly stand up for the people of Asheville. Last night John McKibbon became the latest hotelier to do so. It’ll be up to all of us to continue to work together to help the hotel industry understand that they must be cooperative partners with the people, that exploitation will not do.

    1. NFB January 13, 2016

      Councilman Smith,

      What assures do we have that Mr. McKibbion will follow through on his promises?

      He says he will pay a living wage to all “full time” employees, so what is to stop him from classifying the vast majority of his employees as “part time” this getting around that promise? (Remember a few years ago when UPS tried to claim that people working 35 hours were “part time” so as not to have to pay benefits?)

      He says he use only local businesses and artists. Is this enforceable? What happens when local businesses decide they can’t afford the rents?

      He says he will support redirecting some of the room tax collected for the TDA, but only the legislature can approve making that change and the only chance of that happening if the full TDA agrees (and even then given the hostility the powers that be in the legislature have towards Asheville that would be no guarantee) meaning that Mr. McKibbion’s support is likely to carry much weight even if it is sincere.

      Maybe I have just gotten way too cynical but what I see happening last night was just another example the tourist industry getting whatever it wants in Asheville and all of these promises are just window dressing. I hope I am proven wrong.

      1. Woodlenz January 13, 2016

        I would not say the concessions McKibbon made was an example of the industry getting what they want. I would say that he is smart enough to know that if he did not follow through on those promises, it would be very difficult for him to move forward with any other projects in Asheville. Plus he was already paying his staff a living wage at the Aloft.

        I’m very encouraged by what I witnessed last night and I applaud his commitments and efforts. This cannot be a no win proposition just because we have this disdain for the industry.

        1. luther blissett January 13, 2016

          ” I would say that he is smart enough to know that if he did not follow through on those promises, it would be very difficult for him to move forward with any other projects in Asheville. ”

          Well, slapping up the marooned cruise ship that is the Aloft didn’t hurt him for these current projects, even though City Council admitted that granting permission for that particular eyesore made them look like suckers. McKibbon can make the right noises, move on to his next glorified parking lot, rinse and repeat.

          Smith has essentially admitted that the TDA, an entity that exemplifies “taxation without representation”, wields more power in Asheville than the elected city council. That’s pretty remarkable.

    2. indie January 13, 2016


      Well done. You manged to get several self congratulatory mentions and a cheap shot at Ms. Frost all in one short piece.

      You are a blow hard.

    3. Tim Peck January 17, 2016

      “the fight for an equitable distribution of the occupancy tax.”

      Has Mr. Smith contacted his representative in the state legislature for help?

  8. Selene January 12, 2016

    Wow, with this and the Art Museum’s new building. Pack Square will be overwhelmingly Steel & Glass. Quite a change in atmosphere.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Stories