Asheville City Council narrowly approved a revised plan to turn the Flatiron Building into a hotel at its Tuesday evening meeting. The vote took place roughly a month after an initial proposal was pulled from consideration because there was not enough support for it on council.
The revised plan turns one of downtown’s oldest and most iconic buildings - first opened in 1926 - into a 71-room hotel. The second floor will remain office space, with the bottom floor becoming a restaurant. The final vote was 4-3 in support. Councilwoman Julie Mayfield was the member who changed her mind last night, saying the developer made enough concessions to ensure some businesses will remain at the Flatiron. That included keeping the second floor offices, as originally the whole building outside of the bottom floor would have been hotel rooms. "I stand by my statement that we are sunk if the only way for property owners in downtown to be successful is to build a hotel," Mayfield said before the vote at the meeting. "But this building is different for many reasons, and I can understand how the only path forward for this building involves the high return that comes only with a hotel. I don't like it, but I understand it." Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, and Councilman Vijay Kapoor joined Mayfield in supporting the plan. Council members Keith Young, Sheneika Smith, and Brian Haynes voted no.
Supporters of turning the Flatiron into a hotel argued it’s the only way to preserve the 93-year-old building, which is in need of extensive renovations. Opponents counter that downtown already has enough hotels, and now more than 80 small businesses housed at the Flatiron are at-risk of being evicted.