Builders of a downtown condominium development are changing gears, hoping to take advantage of Asheville's new rules for hotel rules, which move hotel proposals through the city's approval process without going to City Council.
They will instead seek approval for a hotel at 123 Haywood Street.
Introducing the project at the city's Design Review Committee Nov. 18, city planner Sasha Vrtunski described it as a small hotel, pointing out the "very small site" made of two parcels between the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the on-ramp for I-240.
"After the hotel regulations were passed last spring, they are exploring and trying to see if they can turn this into a small hotel," she said, adding that developers have been in talks with the city about the changes since the summer.
The city's new rules followed more than a yearlong moratorium on new hotels, and use a hotel overlay district map and public benefits table to allow developers to get hotel projects approved without going before Asheville City Council.
Developers of 123 Haywood are seeking a Level I approval, which would only require a technical review from city staff and wouldn't need approval from the city Planning and Zoning Commission or City Council, but does need a positive approval from the Design Review Committee.
Originally set for the Nov. 18 meeting, the formal review of the project was continued to the committee's Dec. 16 meeting, though the committee informally reviewed the tweaked design at the close of the Nov. 18 meeting.
City spokesperson Polly McDaniel reported Nov. 24 that the city has received an amendment to change the use of the property to an 18-unit extended stay hotel.
The initial request for the change of use was file July 6, and the application on file with the city notes the addition of 700 square feet of street-level retail and "other enhancements per hotel overlay requirements."
The project was initially approved in 2020 and set to begin construction in the third quarter of 2021, according to the application, and if the request doesn't move forward, those approvals would remain in place.
John Mang, vice president and managing principal at the Charlotte office of the INTEC Group, presented the changed project at the meeting, saying the main difference is what was a corner pocket park has become a retail space to meet city requirements that 50% of a hotel's street frontage be activated.
But, city code requires a building height of at least two stories downtown, Vrtunski said.
"The addition of the hotel overlay and things changing a little bit in the marketplace, we're trying to make the shift as economically as we possibly can to fulfill all those requirements and still have a very elegant, evocative kind of building," Mang said.
Developers have building permits in hand ready to break ground, he said, calling the new proposal "99% identical to what was approved last year," on the less than quarter-acre site.
The condo development, dubbed The Haywood, lists on its website five available condos, from $571,795 to $725,400 for a 1,209-square-foot condo facing the nearby Basilica of St. Lawrence and the mountain view beyond.
Beverly Hanks Realtors currently lists 18 for-sale condos as part of The Haywood, at 123 Haywood St. downtown, starting in the upper $500,000s.
Six listings currently on the site range from $611,004 for a one-bed, one-bath condo to $1.1 million for a three-bed, two-bath condo.
Discussion of the project during the Committee meeting mentioned a couple issues that may come up during the approval process, including the two-story minimum requirement, but Planner Shannon Tuch noted that "that's the Level I review, that's not a question for this group."
Committee members who spoke on the design while informally reviewing the project Nov. 18, including Bryan Moffitt, were unimpressed with the changes.
Moffitt noted that compared to the original proposal, there's less glass and more of the metal siding material, especially along the horizontal divisions between floors which became much thicker in the recent renderings.
"You've changed actually quite a bit it looks like from the previous design to this one," Moffitt said, which he said made it "not remotely as attractive to me."
Mang said it was a result of current realities in the construction business, including market conditions, material costs and constructability of building in an urban environment on a "postage stamp-sized site."
Original plans called for a thinner pre-cast plank floor system, he said, but now call for a wood frame over a steel frame podium.
Comments from the committee on that earlier design included the criticism that it looked like a shipping container, Mang said.
"We're trying to kind of thread the needle between making sure that it didn't go that route," he said. "I think we're pretty clear with the intent of drawing inspiration from the rich history of the existing buildings on the downtown skyline."
The project will head back to the Design Review Committee for its formal review Dec. 16 at 12:30 p.m.
Derek Lacey covers health care, growth and development for the Asheville Citizen Times. Reach him at DLacey@gannett.com or 828-417-4842 and find him on Twitter @DerekAVL.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Downtown condo-turned-hotel seeks new approval in Asheville