Word on the street is that a new 20-story office building is being considered for downtown Asheville, right here on this parking along Patton Avenue near Pack Square. This is an unconfirmed report, and I haven’t seen any development proposals for this lot. But I have it on good authority that it is definitely an idea that’s being kicked around.
A building boom is already in full effect in downtown, mostly driven by the construction of several new hotels. And Asheville’s biggest downtown office building – and one of the city’s tallest buildings overall – is in the midst of being converted to condos and a boutique hotel with a mix of retail and restaurant space.
The hotel construction boom caught Asheville City Council off-guard, and after last year’s election, City Council is considering adopting new rules to require tougher reviews for any new hotels. Maybe it’s time for City Council to take another look at other rules, such as height restrictions for buildings. There are already restrictions in place, and a 20-story office building on the parking lot along Patton probably would not appear taller than the BB&T building, which stands at 18 stories but is placed on a point that’s higher than the parking lot. But some people, myself included, worry that we’re losing the character of this city that we know and love.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for more info.
Correction: Asheville City Council has not yet adopted new rules for reviewing hotel development plans in downtown, as an earlier version of the story stated. The story was also clarified to state that the city has height restrictions in place for downtown buildings.
The other point to be made is that downtown Asheville still lacks flexible, versatile, well-equipped office space, which gives existing landlords of office buildings the upper hand in dictating terms. Property owners often won’t sign long-term leases or do upgrades (or even perform basic maintenance) because they’re hoping a buyer comes along with a bag of cash — and if not, then maybe they can bump up the rent again. It’s a burden on downtown businesses to have to contemplate putting everything in boxes, reprinting the stationery and business cards, and schlepping over to another part of town every year or two.
That doesn’t mean downtown needs a 20-story office tower, but it does mean that it needs more and better office space.
Ah, making journalism all about the author! And staking your ground that the door for growth should be closed after you. Your job as a journalist is impartiality.
So, that’s the space between Church and S Lexington. Looking at GIS, it’s divided into three separate parcels: the main one is owned by Drhumor Associates LLC, with a smaller parcel nearest Church owned by Asheville Savings Bank (including the ATM) and the smallest (nearest Lexington) by the City of Asheville. The Drhumor lot (well, I finally learned that it’s not Dr. Humor) is about the same area, though not the same shape, as the footprint of the BB&T.
There was a City Council meeting in 2009 (May 26th 2009, nearly seven years ago to the day) where a number of McGuire, Wood and Bissette lawyers (including Louis Bissette who’s also part of Drhumor Associates LLC) talked about wanting to develop that property: they complained that the proposed Downtown Master Plan would reduce the value of that parcel by limiting what could be done with it. Perhaps Mr Bissette ought to be asked again for the public record?
Here’s the minutes for that City Council worksession, let’s see if the link makes it through:
And checking the state corporation records, Drhumor Associates LLC is just the standalone “building owner” LLC jointly owned by all the McGuire, Wood and Bissette partners.
So, just from public records, we know that the lot is owned by one of the city’s most prominent law firms, including a former mayor; that they have wanted to develop it for a while, and objected to the Downtown Master Plan that would limit its development prospects. Isn’t journalism fun?
Character is what you do when you think no one’s watching…
At least its not another hotel.