flat iron building illustration

Illustration showing the renovated Flatiron Building, courtesy of the Flatiron Preservation Group, LLC.

The Fate of Asheville’s Flat Iron Building

flat iron building illustration
Illustration showing the renovated Flatiron Building, courtesy of the Flatiron Preservation Group, LLC.

On April 8, 2019 the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved a proposed boutique hotel planned for the Flatiron Building, located at 20 Battery Park Ave. in Asheville.

S.C.-based developer Philip Woollcott, is working with the local firm Rowhouse Architects on the project. The current building owner, local Russell Thomas, supports the project. He has owned the Flatiron for 33 years, but does not have the funds to renovate the building. Ownership will be transferred to the Flatiron Preservation Group, LLC. Construction will be done by local company Beverly-Grant, who will employ area workers.

Making the Flatiron into a hotel would allow the developers to pursue national historic tax credits via the National Park Service — credits that are specifically for preservation projects. In order to receive these tax credits, a property must be income-producing. Residential property (including condos and apartments) does not meet the criteria to receive these tax credits.

The Flatiron has not had any major repairs since it first opened and is in need of significant structural updates, renovations, and additions.

Woollcott explained that he and Thomas have decided that hotel use is the only business model able to generate the income to support the renovations needed, such as adding an emergency elevator, updating internal systems and outfitting the building with sprinklers.

The goal is to utilize the building for the local community first, and for tourists second, by opening a basement speakeasy, street-level shops, a lobby bar, a rooftop bar and a restaurant that would all be accessible to the public when the hotel opens in 2020.

  • The rooftop bar will replace the Sky Bar and will pay homage to the building’s history as the site of WWNC, the city’s first broadcasting station, which began in 1927.
  • The hotel will have 71 rooms. There will be designated parking spaces for guests. The management team plans to provide an estimated 55 spaces, with one space per two hotel rooms.
  • The historic elevators – and the elevator operator – will remain. An ADA-compliant elevator will be added that will travel from the basement speakeasy to the rooftop bar. The current elevators only go to the eighth floor.
  • Cosmetic updates include restoring the building’s 288 windows, repairing the copper cornices on the roof, and repairing terra cotta flooring throughout the building.

Public outrage

Public feedback on the project has been vocal, with people coming out on both sides of the proposal.

Local residents are worried about the additional traffic another hotel will bring. Several people have pointed out that tax credits could be applied if the building includes office spaces and apartments. And don’t get them started on the parking! Parking is already tight in that area. With the addition of the hotel guests, workers, and visitors, parking will be a nightmare.

In general, people seem to feel that City Council cares more about turning Asheville into a tourist attraction than creating a community. Additional hotels are the last thing the city needs.

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