Asheville Residents Divided On Flatiron Building's Future As Hotel
Two weeks after the Asheville City Council passed the new Flatiron Building proposal, residents are divided on what the building's transformation means for the future of downtown.
The revamped proposal cut down on hotel rooms to preserve the second floor as office space. Flatiron Preservation Group partner and developer Philip Woollcott said the mixed-use project is "not just for tourists but also for the locals to come and enjoy the building."
Karen Ramshaw, the vice president of the organization Public Interest Projects, supported the new proposal. She said the most important thing for her is the building is being preserved.
Ramshaw has been an Asheville resident for over 50 years and has seen a bevy of changes to downtown. She said she understands why people are upset the Flatiron Building proposal passed.
"But I don't see how we're going to stop Asheville from growing," said Ramshaw. "Where do you draw the line?"
She believes folks are too quick to blame hotels for the city's problems.
"It takes us off the hook," said Ramshaw. "If the problem is hotels, we don't have to look at what we do or don't do to achieve the kind of community we want."
For Laura Hope-Gill, an architectural historian and assistant professor of writing at Lenoir-Rhyne University's campus in Asheville, hotels and developers have created a shortage of affordable office and living spaces downtown. She said the approved plan for the Flatiron is the beginning of the end.
"What's happened in Asheville now is that I just feel like we've reached a tipping point into the endgame," said Hope-Gill. "It's hotels on every block."
Hope-Gill is not alone in her concerns. After the City Council approved the plan, printed pages popped up all around downtown. The anonymous dissents read, "your luxury is our displacement." Community members stated this plan changes Asheville into a place people can't afford and no longer recognize.
Ramshaw said community member's feelings matter but they need to be channeled into finding long-term solutions for Asheville's growth.
"Be angry. That's a good start," said Ramshaw. "Be really frustrated, again, there's energy. But if that's all there ever is, absolutely nothing is going to change."
Woollcott said finishing the architectural and engineering plans for the Flatiron will happen over the next 90 to 120 days. The development group also plans to finalize construction costs and work with current tenants on their relocation packages.
Woollcott anticipates the building restoration taking about a year, with a grand opening in 2020.