Duke Energy recently sold this building and property on Hilliard Avenue to a developer who plans to reuse part of the building and construct new apartments, with a commercial use on the first floor. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: I saw in a recent property transfer that the property at 226 Hilliard Ave. was sold. I believe this is at the corner of Hilliard and Asheland Avenue. Any word/idea what might be going there? Whatever it is hopefully will be better than the overgrown, fenced property there now.

My answer: Hey now, overgrown, fenced property has a certain cachet in Asheville these days. Look for the “Overgrown Brewpub” coming soon.

Real answer: I suspected this was another of the downtown properties Duke Energy had bought a few years back for potential substations, and that turns out to be the case.

“This property was originally purchased as an option for a potential substation to meet increased demand for electricity in the downtown area,” Duke spokesperson Jeff Brooks told me via email. “We determined the site was no longer needed and the property was sold.”

The property transfer in the Citizen Times notes Duke sold the property for $3.6 million to 226 Hilliard Avl LLC. Brian Wise, the principal of Fall Line Development, is the registered agent of that LLC.

“This is going to be a mixed-use residential project,” Wise said, noting that his company has previously built suburban apartments or townhomes in the area. “Given the location, we’re going to have some commercial on this site. We’re doing an adaptive reuse of the building.”

As Wise noted, the building is “pretty ugly” right now, but don’t expect that to last. The property has had problems with trespassers over the years, so there is some barbed wire on the fencing, too.

The city of Asheville has approved the new project.

“It was approved by Planning and Zoning as a level two approval in May, I believe,” Wise said. “The size of the project is probably going to be right around 100 (residential) units.”

The city’s Technical Review Board approved the project May 15, describing it as a four-story residential building with podium parking (ground floor, with walls surrounding it). The TRC report states the building sits on 1.79 acres, and the development will consist of 110 units.

“The development proposal shows preservation of the existing building on site,” the TRC report states, noting it has a gross floor area of 25,000 square feet. “A two-story addition along Hilliard and other modifications are proposed to this building including parking beneath.

The report also notes that, “New construction includes a four-story residential L-shaped building fronting along the entirety of Asheland Avenue with 110 units. The building carries around the corner and fronts along a portion of Hilliard Ave dropping to three stories adjacent to the existing building.” The total gross floor area is 71,468 square feet.

Wise hopes to have a very Asheville commercial amenity on Hilliard.

“We’re hoping to have a tenant in the Hilliard side, essentially in the front side of that building, that hopefully will do a brewery, coffee shop — something like that — it will be a nice amenity for our residents,” Wise said.

Currently barbed wire surrounds the property at 226 Hilliard Avenue, which has had problems with trespassers over the years. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

The revamped building will fit in with “the context of the neighborhood,” Wise said. “The neighbors have liked it from the scale (standpoint) of it, because originally we submitted something that was a much larger project. So this smaller project is a better fit, (and) creates a nice buffer between the South Slope and downtown, and from existing residential there.”

Built in 1940, the existing building comprises about 24,000 square feet of total finished area. It has three levels, Wise said, but it will use the bottom floor for parking.

The building was the longtime home of Haynes & Lunsford Electric Inc. before it was sold to Duke about a decade ago, so it was a pretty utilitarian structure.

“The metal portion of that building is going to come down, and we will try to restore the original portion of the building to something that it looked like back when Haynes & Lunsford built it back in the ‘40s,” Wise said. “It’s not like we’re going for historical tax credits, so it’s not going to be exact. But it’s going to be a little more reminiscent of that, with the nicer windows and something that looks and feels a little bit historic, and then it should get a nice contrast with the new building as well.”

The apartments will be “market rate,” Wise said. Probably about 70 percent will be one-bedrooms and studios, while 30 percent will be larger units.

“We’re hoping to get construction drawings approved in the next four months and start construction by early 2024,” Wise said. Opening will probably be in mid-to-late 2025, he added.

Question: The town of Black Mountain has open parking — no parking meters. There are some businesses which have labeled some parking spots for their customers only. Is this legally allowed? If so, do they pay the town a fee for this? If so, how much? If not, why? Also, how is parking in one of these street parking places while not being a customer at the place of business claiming them being enforced? Can you be towed? Is there a ticket or fine?

My answer: Let’s just be thankful they haven’t shifted to the accursed “Park Mobile” app like Hendersonville did. Nothing makes a man feel older than squinting at his iPhone 8 in the blazing sun, trying to accurately type in his license plate number while in mortal fear of being towed. Or, ahem, at least so I’m told. Hey, my vision is like an eagle’s, but sharper.

Real answer: Black Mountain has limited parking regulations, according to Town Manager Josh Harrold.

“A few years ago, the town adopted a parking and circulation study, which found the town has sufficient parking spaces but lacks adequate turnover of spaces in high demand areas such as Cherry Street, Broadway Avenue, and State Street,” Harrold said via email. “The study made a variety of parking management strategy recommendations.”

Town Council is “learning more about a comprehensive approach to improving availability in high-demand parking areas in the core downtown areas and surrounding residential areas,” Harrold added. He also noted the downtown business district has a limited number of private parking spaces.

“Sometimes, property owners place signs to indicate the spaces are for their business,” Harrold said. “This is legal but can be confusing. No individual or business has the authority to establish exclusive use of a public on-street or public off-street parking space for their business.”

Occasionally, town staff notices this or gets reports from the public about it.

“In these instances, the individual has been required to remove their signs,” Harrold said. “Town staff, including the Police Department, cannot be everywhere, all the time and we cannot always know this is happening if it is not reported.”

So they encourage business owners and the public to notify the Black Mountain Police Department if public spaces are being reserved by private businesses.


Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.

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