ASHEVILLE - A large-scale apartment project approved four years ago for downtown's South Slope has been halted due to problems with the site and "fatigue," city officials said.
The $90 million project was approved in December 2019 on more than 4 acres in the heart of the city's brewery district, between Asheland and Coxe avenues. It was to produce 488 apartments − 48 of them guaranteed affordable ― a 973-space parking deck and 86,000 square feet of commercial space. The City Council voted for the development 5-1, with the "no" vote made by Sheneika Smith who said the "massive" project would disrupt bus flow at the nearby transit station.
In September 2020, at the request of developer, Tribute Investment and Development Inc. of Wilmington, the council approved changes that slashed the commercial space to 44,199 square feet and parking spaces to 574 as well as reducing the number of apartments to 474, though it kept the 48 affordable units.
Now after years of site work and completion of the parking deck, Tribute has backed out and is looking to sell the site, city staff and volunteer members of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee said this month.
"They've halted and the project is for sale," committee Chair Barry Bialik told the Citizen Times Jan. 26.
The news comes as renters struggle to find housing in a market deemed by one study the fifth worst in the nation for those looking for apartments.
Lack of housing also is a key problem behind growing homelessness in the Asheville area, a recent report said.
Messages left with Tribute and project manager Warren Suggs with Civil Design Concepts of Asheville were not returned.
Tribute bought the property for $10.3 million in 2019, government property records showed. As of Jan. 26, the acreage was still owned by Tribute. The Charlotte-based commercial real estate company Berkadia is listing the property. The company's managing director Caleb Troop did not respond to a message asking about the listing.
As part of the 2019 deal, the city agreed to give a $3.9 million grant to Tribute because the project met multiple city goals, including the 48 affordable housing units, proximity to downtown and nearby transit that could reduce car travel. That money has not been paid. A new owner would be bound by the same deal and could receive that grant, officials said.
City property, and Coxe Avenue specifically, has problems with stability due to dumping of construction waste for at least a century, Bialik said.
"I joke that there is no such thing as an infill city lot ― they're all 'filled in' city lots," the committee chair said.
At a Jan. 5 affordable housing meeting, committee member Chris Day, a civil engineer with CDC, where Suggs, the project manger, works, said Tribute had "a lot of surprises, and spent a lot of money on surprises."
"I think they have it now where they would feel comfortable if someone else wanted to step in, because they're fatigued," Day said.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government, and other news. He's written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at email@example.com, 828-713-1095, or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Developer halts $90M downtown Asheville apartment construction project