1. Why don't you develop the site based on the existing zoning, which the community worked hard to create?
We understand (and agree) the zoning and the Charlotte Street overlay are confusing. The current mix of CB1, RM8 and RM16 zoning designations does allow for removal of the existing homes and creation of a greater density and mix of uses. However, redevelopment studies showed that those options would lead to negative consequences. For instance, because the site rises over fifty feet from Charlotte Street to Furman Avenue, the building height limits (2-3 stories) and small maximum building footprints allowed in the CB1 and Charlotte Street Transition Overlay result in a site with small commercial buildings, surrounded by parking lots, and with a large retaining wall behind them – not what any of us want.
Instead, using the framework of the alternative Mixed Use Expansion District (MXD EXP) zoning, the design team has come up with a thoughtful mixed-use approach that puts height and density along the Charlotte Street corridor, conceals parking on the interior of the site, and creates new homes within the residential neighborhoods up the hill. The height also allows a more efficient use of land with wider sidewalks on Charlotte Street greater density which enables public benefits like affordable housing and transit access.
2. Why are you reducing affordability on site by demolishing existing homes that are affordable?
While the rent for the existing housing is affordable now, it is not designated or deed-restricted as such. One reason the rents are low currently is because there hasn’t been a major renovation of the houses. If that were to happen, as the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC) and its supporters are pushing for, the costs of renovating would then supersede the affordability. What we are offering instead are newly constructed, energy-efficient, handicapped accessible, and safe housing options with 10% deed-restricted as affordable according to Asheville guidelines.
3. Why don't you tear down the Asheville Arms? It is the only building on the block that is not a contributing building to the Chestnut Hill historic district.
While we understand that the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC) has suggested the removal of the Asheville Arms instead of the removing the older houses, the Asheville Arms provides homes for 56 households at reasonable rents (rents that would qualify as workforce housing for folks making 80% - 100% of the Area Median Income). Those 56 units represent 70% of our existing tenant base on the block and tearing down the Asheville Arms community would mean displacing those 56 households.
4. Why are you removing so many old growth trees?
We have done a detailed inventory of the trees on site and understand the trade-offs in the cost of tree canopy to redevelop the site. While the slope of the site dictates that any significant redevelopment would require re-grading that sacrifices numerous trees, our design exceeds the local tree preservation ordinances and replaces every lost tree with two new ones. We will also be working with an arborist and landscape architect to make sure the new trees are native species suitable for the area and that they are properly taken care of so they’ll enhance the site for generations to come.
5. Will the retail spaces house local Asheville businesses?
The current plan includes commercial spaces that can be configured into smaller retail frontages, allowing local/growing businesses an entry point to the project and attracting residents to the neighborhood to help support those business. We also include some live/workspaces with direct access from the street that enable artists, gig workers, and small entrepreneurs to combine living and working space on shorter term leases. The combination of residential and commercial gives a growing business the price and terms they need to have a brick-and-mortar presence.
6. What will the rents be for apartments and/or prices of the for-sale homes?
Until we know the exact terms under which the site is approved, it is too early to discuss lease or sales rates. Our goal is to provide a variety of apartment types (from live-work, to studios, to two and three-bedroom units) as well as a variety of homes for sale ranging in size and price point. This diversity of residential options would enable individuals and families from a range of economic backgrounds to live there.
7. The Killian Family neglected the homes on currently on the site. Why should we trust they will be better stewards now?
When the Killians purchased the homes in the 1980s they had already been broken up into apartments and were suffering from decades of wear and tear. While the Killians maintained the properties to the best of their ability as rental housing, the untimely death of Dr. John Killian in 1998 left his wife, Mrs. Frances Killian, to manage all of it. Her efforts, along with her sons Hume and Frank, led to many improvements to the neighborhood, such as the transfer of land to the JCC so they could expand within the neighborhood, including the swimming pool, rather than look for another location, and the award-winning restorations of the Von Ruck Estate and Jeter Pritchard House.
In 2016 Mrs. Killian passed ownership of the real estate to her sons, who have been working to find sustainable, long-term solutions to enhance the Charlotte Street corridor. In 2019, the Killians teamed up with local owner and operator RCG SE LLC (RCG) in a partnership that saw RCG assume property management duties and aid with capital improvements. The partners are also undertaking a historic restoration of the Commodore Apartments on E. Chestnut Street and significant upgrades to the Asheville Arms and other local properties.
8. Why are the owners determined to not save the existing homes?
The project team’s first instinct was to figure out if there was a way to incorporate the existing houses into the new design. They studied the site from many different perspectives, but the condition of the homes, the topography of the site, and the existing layout relative to the public way made it unfeasible to save a significant number of homes, enhance Charlotte Street’s public space, and provide much need housing to the community.
It should also be noted Hume Killian and members of the project team met with the PSABC and had a follow up call prior to submitting the project for review and welcomed their feedback on any of the houses that had special value or historic merit. However, the PSABC took an “all or nothing” position that all the houses must be preserved regardless of merit. They then launched a public campaign that has circulated many false narratives and personal attacks, making any further productive dialogue with them difficult. However, the project team is still open to constructive public input and ideas. The plans are still being refined and it’s important that the community feels the final design is welcoming, inclusive, and reflective of the Charlotte Street Corridor vision for the future.