The Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville will not be turned into a hotel – at least for now. At the end of Tuesday night’s lengthy city council meeting, four council members – Brian Haynes, Julie Mayfield, Sheneika Smith, and Keith Young – all stated they were against a plan from a South Carolina-based developer to turn one of downtown’s most iconic and oldest buildings into an 80-room hotel. Those four constituted a majority of council members, so the developer's lawyer pulled the plan from consideration before the council could vote on it. That allows it to come up again at a future meeting.
The decision came after a more than two hour hearing on the proposal. Most residents who spoke were against it, arguing downtown has enough hotels and adding another one in such a prominent spot while displacing more than 80 small businesses that are currently housed in the Flatiron Building would only feed the narrative that the city cares about tourists more than residents. Supporters of the plan claim turning the Flatiron Building into a hotel was the only to preserve the building, which first opened in 1926.
Once residents were done testifying before council members, lawmakers had their turn to speak. Council member Vijay Kapoor was the only one to offer support for the plan. Mayor Esther Manheimer and Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler did not get a chance to speak on the proposal before it pulled from consideration. In a report prepared for council members, city staff argued the hotel project was the best chance to preserve the historic building which needs “life safety upgrades and overall rehabilitation” according to the report.