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orulz

Capital Center, Asheville

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OK, just read about this one from this article in the Citizen-Times.

There is a blurb about the project on Tessier Associates' website. It involves an extensive renovation of the 8-story former First Union building between Patton and Commerce streets. The upper floors of the building will be office condominiums, and the ground floor will incorporate retail. There will also be a rooftop terrace restaurant.

They will also build a multi-level parking deck behind the building, on the other side of Commerce Street. (Commerce Street is essentially an alleyway, and it's a great place for a parking deck. The parking deck will be connected to Pritchard Park through a concourse in the center of the building, with shops and a restaurant at ground level along the concourse.

The First Union building is the largest building currently unused downtown. Good to see that someone's putting it to use!

Edited by orulz

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asheville17.jpg

Thought I'd point out that in the far background, the cream-colored building with the blank wall is the old First Union building, which will be extensively renovated as Capital Center. As it is, this building's windows only face Patton and Commerce.

I wonder whether they will install some windows on the side. I'm not sure how likely that is, since the side walls may be load bearing.

Edited by orulz

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That is good news on the FU building. Although I am not tremendously familiar with the specific building we are discussing I seem to remember it as a giant 70's un-pedestrian friendly block of concrete. Am I right? If it is the building I am thinking of then it is the most glaring problem on that little square and I remember when walking past it what a shame it was that the builders didn't put more care into designing it. Hopefully this new makeover will rectify that as the square where the building sits is quite nice and deserving of so much better than that building currently offers.

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That is good news on the FU building. Although I am not tremendously familiar with the specific building we are discussing I seem to remember it as a giant 70's un-pedestrian friendly block of concrete. Am I right? If it is the building I am thinking of then it is the most glaring problem on that little square and I remember when walking past it what a shame it was that the builders didn't put more care into designing it. Hopefully this new makeover will rectify that as the square where the building sits is quite nice and deserving of so much better than that building currently offers.
The First Union building wasn't particularly attractive, and it's certainly dated now, but it certainly was never an atrocity. It is an efficient use of space (8 stories tall), is respectful in scale of the buildings and spaces around it, and doesn't take up more street frontage than it needs on Patton. It has a reasonably friendly, glassy entrance for the bank branch that used to be located on the ground floor.

I think you're talking about the Wachovia building instead. That is a four-story building designed to resemble a concrete block. It has lots of frontage on three very important downtown streets (College, Haywood, and Patton) and wastes it all on blank walls.

After the First Union merger, both banks moved into the Wachovia building (Wachovia owned while First Union was leasing.) They modified the building to add a few more windows, but that didn't change much. It's still and ugly building. See the black/white building behind the Dhrumor in this picture:

20050930_020.jpg

I put some thought into what can be done with this eyesore, and my conclusion is that Wachovia needs to build a new tower somewhere else (College? Woodfin? Coxe?) and lease its current one building out to a department store. Think about it -

  • Downtown Asheville has the cool thing going on. Cooler than the mall, even? Maybe so.
  • The best shoe store in town (Tops) is right across the street. Anyone who's lived in Asheville for a while knows that, if you're serious about buying shoes, you go to Tops.
  • There are more restaurants and boutiques than you can shake a stick at downtown. Beats the crap out of a food court. This means a theoretical department store wouldn't exist in a vacuum. It could synergize with its environment just like it could in a mall.
  • Department stores can survive in malls with less foot traffic than Haywood Street.
  • Asheville Mall is a dump. It also has poor access because traffic on South Tunnel Road sucks. That sounds like a perfect opportunity to attract some major retail back downtown before the mall renovates or does a teardown/rebuild.

From an operational standpoint,

  • While the Wachovia building's floorplates are about half the size of a mall department store, they have four floors to work with instead of two.
  • There is plenty of street frontage, which means an entrances and displays on three sides.
  • The building is right across College Street from the 3-level Rankin Avenue parking deck. That places it a mere 40 foot walk from 262 parking spaces. It is also less than 100 yards from the Civic Center deck, which has 7 levels and 550 spaces.
  • The bottom level is a half-basement, and is currently used for parking. It could either be kept as is for more parking, or converted to more retail space while they depend on the decks for parking.

Great idea, eh? I'm convinced it could work. Now we just need to find a developer to do the refit and a department store to make it happen... :whistling: Barring a major relocation from the Asheville Mall, are there any smaller department store chains out there with an eye for expansion and an affinity for urban locations?

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Your right, I was thinking the Wachovia building. Sorry, but with the merger you can understand the confusion. I do like your idea.

Edited by appatone

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I could be WAYYY off base on this. But does Asheville have the tourist/ financial clout to support a small downtown Saks like downtown Charleston has. Given Asheville's reputation as a wealthy 2nd home locale, in addition to its place as a quite hotbead for Hollywood folks, I wonder if it could work. Except that Saks is having some troubles of its own right now. But it does seem, at least on the surface, that it wouldn't be too different from Charleston in the regard of landing a Saks. Where's Steven Rocks when you need him?

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Aside from the retirees (both seasonal and year-round residents) Asheville is not a particularly wealthy town. The economy is service-based, and to top it off, housing in the city is on the expensive side. I doubt there's really a market for a Saks in Asheville.

Besides, I'm not so sure I'd want such an upscale place to be the only come department store downtown. I'd prefer a store with broader appeal, somewhere I'd consider shopping.

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Man, of all the areas needing redevelopment, I think that parking lot between Dhrumor and 12 S. Lex might win the prize. That's one big chunk of concrete right along one of downtown's main drags.

Exciting to here about the FU building -- Hopefully they'll be able to spruce up its architecture a bit while they're at it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the addition of a window or two.

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Man, of all the areas needing redevelopment, I think that parking lot between Dhrumor and 12 S. Lex might win the prize. That's one big chunk of concrete right along one of downtown's main drags.
Agreed. The fact that this lot (two seperate parcels, actually) is reasonably large, and is in a superb location right in the heart of everything, makes it perhaps the most developable piece of property in all of downtown Asheville. I doubt a 25 story building could fit, but certainly 10 or 12 stories would be appropriate.

I got it, maybe that's where Wachovia should relocate! Although, Asheville Savings Bank owns at least one of the lots, and I don't know how keen they'd be on selling it to another bank.

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There's some renderings from the architect available now.

capital_center.jpg

Not exactly revolutionary, but I kind of like it. An improvement over the existing design, to be sure, but it does still leave a few to much blank wall for my taste. That rooftop restaurant is going to kick ass.

Is this under construction yet?

More renderings available here.

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I think opening a department store downtown is a TERRIBLE idea. The store would only encourage more chain store creep. Asheville is of the few cities left that still has a mostly locally owned and authentic downtown. Its what makes the city so popular. People go there to see something different from the suburbs and other cities. You let a dept store in and before you know it The GAP and Banana Republic will drive out adjoining locally owned stores and that would be just the beginning..of the end :sick:

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I think opening a department store downtown is a TERRIBLE idea. The store would only encourage more chain store creep. Asheville is of the few cities left that still has a mostly locally owned and authentic downtown. Its what makes the city so popular. People go there to see something different from the suburbs and other cities. You let a dept store in and before you know it The GAP and Banana Republic will drive out adjoining locally owned stores and that would be just the beginning..of the end :sick:

Stores like that belong in a new downtown, like at Biltmore Park. We do a real disservice to the freaks and hippies by chasing them all over town, from neighborhood to neighborhood, when theyr'e the ones who brought those neighborhoods back in the first place.

On the topic of Capital Center, the new design is worlds better than the old building. I wonder if the rooftoop restaurant will be ludicrously expensive, or merely prohibitively expensive.

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Thanks for the link! I was just wondering to myself what was going on with this project not 30 minutes ago.

Previously, I thought they were going to build a parking structure on the lot across Commerce Street from here, but it seems that will stay a surface lot. With the eventual county parking deck on the DSS parking lot (hope they screen it along Coxe with something!) maybe they can sell off or develop their parking lot for something else.

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A group called People Advocating Real Conservancy is trying to block the sell of air rights to the developers of this building. They're afraid the little protrusions will ruin the view of the sky and will be imposing.

I wish they would focus their efforts on causes that matter instead of trivial stuff like this. Maybe they're just trying to make a statement about air rights, but the developers shouldn't be punished for trying to make use of this building.

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Overall I think thats a great design, considering what it looks like now that is a huge improvement. The 60's didn't always produce the most exciting architecture thats for sure ... in fact they probably ripped down some really neat building to build that eyesore. I wonder what was there before?

In Orlando the 60's was the most destructive era to our historical architecture, we lost many truely fantastic buildings for those big quasi-modern elcheapo cement boxes. Such a waste... <_<

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I think opening a department store downtown is a TERRIBLE idea. The store would only encourage more chain store creep. Asheville is of the few cities left that still has a mostly locally owned and authentic downtown. Its what makes the city so popular. People go there to see something different from the suburbs and other cities. You let a dept store in and before you know it The GAP and Banana Republic will drive out adjoining locally owned stores and that would be just the beginning..of the end :sick:

There was a time when there were chain department stores in downtown Asheville, and they added to the vitality of the place. I'm referring to Kress, Woolworth, Ivy's and J.C. Penny. They were here along with numerous one-off mom and pop type stores and offices.

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Athens GA has chain stores in their downtown. They do not detract from the local stores in my opinion... the locals might feel differently.

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More construction updates:

cap1.jpg

cap2.jpg

Not a lot going on, but you can see the rooftop addition work taking place.

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There's an article in today's paper about this project.

Construction will wrap up before the end of '08. The office space (floors 2-7) is 65% sold. There will be a restaurant and bar on the 8th floor. Ground floor (Commerce) will house a kitchen, mechanical stuff, and 2877sf of retail; 1st floor (Patton) will be 4993sf of retail.

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The parking lot across Commerce from this building is owned by the same folks. Maybe there is potential for future development that will help to improve the business activity of this street.

Edited by rooster8

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I was in Asheville this past weekend and took a snapshot of the progress of this renovation:

2777890361_4b1e7bee13_b.jpg

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