by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
Last night, members of Asheville City Council agreed to reopen the RFQ/RFP bidding process on a decrepit city-owned parcel across from the US Cellular Center. The last time around, the city only received one bid, from the McKibbon Hotel Group. The hotel chain was since bullied out of its plans as the archdiocese overseeing the nearby basilica was persuaded to try to buy the property out from under them, and a band of other hoteliers threatened to sue McKibbon and the city over the deal.
The real problem is, green interests want to plant a public park right in the middle of downtown. Councilman Cecil Bothwell argued studies had shown that placing a public park downtown increases property values 8-20%. He asked Sam Powers, the city’s economic development director, if anybody had compared projected revenues from this vs. what building on the site could provide. Powers said no, and Vice Chair Marc Hunt called attention to Aston Park downtown, which has done nothing to stimulate redevelopment in the area. In fact, it has a, shall we say, reputation.
Bothwell was the only member of council to vote against the measure. He also voted against the joint resolution, signed with the Buncombe County Commissioners, encouraging the NC DOT to move forward with the I-26 Connector. Said Bothwell, “This is the Koch brothers’ plan!”