Asheville development: 600 apartments, mixed-use facility proposed

ASHEVILLE — A Wilmington-based development team plans to build a sprawling mixed-use apartment complex on Asheville’s South Slope it says is designed to cut into the city’s rental housing deficit.

Much of the concept proposed by apartment developer Tribute Companies calls for construction of about 550 apartments with commercial storefronts, office space and a 1,000-space parking deck on a 4.5 acre site bordering Asheland and Coxe avenues. It also involves a property to the north on Collier Avenue expected to include up to 70 live-work lofts and studio apartment units in a five-story structure.

Expected project costs and rent prices for the property have not yet been publicly shared.

The development would be constructed in several phases with the first planned to begin early next year, said architect Brian Cook of McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture in Asheville. Before that, the project, positioned in the city’s central business district, which encompasses much of downtown, requires City Council approval.

Cook said the developer has met with all but a few council members including Mayor Esther Manheimer and Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler. They expect to go before the body in late September, he said.

If approved, it would be just the latest property by Tribute in Western North Carolina. The company touts almost two dozen sites in the Carolinas including two others in the region: The Lofts at South Slope at 162 Coxe Ave. and Riverstone Apartments at Long Shoals in Arden.

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In a June 6 meeting with the Citizen Times, Cook with colleagues Thad and Lindsey Rhoden said Tribute wants to include affordable housing in the project, possibly as much as 20 percent of its units including the entire Collier Avenue property. But he said it is contingent on the team’s ability to secure funding from the city’s Land Use Incentive Grant program.

Eligible projects must, for 20 years, provide at least 10 percent of proposed units as affordable to households earning 80% or less of the area’s median income. Applicants are graded on a point system by city staff with terms of the grant ultimately decided on by council.

The inclusion of long-term affordable housing options in projects has been a sticking point by council in recent years as rents in Asheville are on the rise. Developer Al Sneeden was given a green light by council this year for a hotel and mixed-use complex at 155 Biltmore Ave. for committing to build affordable housing at the corner of Clingman and Hilliard avenues in a partnership with Mountain Housing Opportunities.

But others like Seritage SRC Finance LLC, which has proposed a $45 million redevelopment of the former Sears lot at the Asheville Mall, have met some opposition on affordable housing. Councilman Keith Young called on Seritage in March to double the number of proposed affordable units in its planned 205-unit complex, an offering he said should come after local Sears and Kmart store closures — connected by way of the company’s former CEO Eddie Lampert — left some residents without jobs.

"Come back to this council with something better to take away than 10 percent, especially after people have lost their jobs in the community," he said. Of note, the Seritage project has been pulled from several council agendas since March, including its most recent meeting May 28. It is planned to return again in July.

Ultimately, Cook said the Tribute project could assist in closing the gap on a tight housing market as spelled out in Bowen National Research data from 2016, which placed Asheville’s rental vacancy rate at 2.7%. Development of more than 1,000 new apartments between then and the first time it released data in 2014 loosened what was considered a "crisis," but housing demand remains strong both in city limits and in greater Buncombe County.

Cook said the main structure on Asheland and Coxe will feature 285 apartments split among three buildings and connected by walkways. That space is planned to have commercial and retail offerings on the ground level with a public walkway that bridges between the two streets.

A five-story structure with 52 apartments along Coxe and fronting Federal Alley is being developed to essentially reorganize the area and create a new link between Coxe and Asheland, he said.

The group currently is in the process of conducting a traffic study to determine the project’s expected impact.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Asheville development: 600 apartments, mixed-use facility proposed

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