Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: What’s happening with the old Kmart store and parking lot on Patton Avenue? It’s been vacant for four years-plus. I thought Ingles owned it and it was supposed to be a mega Ingles with gas pumps. Then rumor had it that it would become a Publix. What’s going on there?
My answer: It appears the “Blue Light Special” these days is on old copper wiring. Self-serve only, though, and please don’t catch the building on fire.
Real answer: The former Kmart store has indeed been closed for four years, after the company and its parent, Sears Holding Company, took a nosedive.
Ingles Markets, based in Black Mountain, bought the 17-acre property in summer 2019 for $8.5 million, according to news reports. Buncombe County property records show the Kmart building, now in “poor” condition, was built in 1967, so the property tax-assessed value of $8.5 million is based on the land.
Ingles did proceed with plans to build a store there, at least as far as securing the necessary permits and most approvals from the city of Asheville.
“The project received approval for the conditional zoning for a new Ingles store from City Council and has yet to return to (the) final Technical Review Committee in order to be issued their final zoning permit,” city spokesperson Kim Miller told me via email.
Having sat through the meeting in which Ingles got one key city approval, I can tell you neighbors in the area were quite supportive of a new store, as it would serve the nearby Emma and West Asheville communities and result in the removal of the Kmart building. The structure has become an eyesore. It’s partly boarded up, and neighbors were having problems with people hanging out in the abandoned building or nearby.
So, what is Ingles doing with the property?
The chain, which has more than 200 stores in six Southeastern states, is famously tight-lipped about, well, everything. But especially development of new stores.
“As a matter of policy, we do not speculate on future development for individual locations until construction begins,” Ingles Markets Chief Financial Officer Pat Jackson said via email. “There are too many variables with zoning, weather and availability of construction resources.”
As reported by WLOS-News 13, the former Kmart building caught fire early July 12, the result of thieves attempting to steal copper wire from the building, the Asheville Fire Department said. Fire crews quickly extinguished the small blaze.
Ingles has two stores nearby, one at Patton Avenue and New Leicester Highway, and another on Haywood Road, but those stores are considerably smaller and showing their age.
Rusty Pulliam, president of Pulliam Properties in Asheville, a large commercial real estate company, is not affiliated with the Ingles project on Patton Avenue, but he is familiar with the company’s development patterns. He said it’s significant that Ingles bought this property outright, as opposed to leasing or some other arrangement.
“A store will happen at that site at some point in time,” Pulliam said. “They’re not going to sell it to anybody else. Ingles is a big company, with a lot of irons in the fire, so they’re probably just taking their time. This was a long-term play to get one of their big superstores there.”
Update on Asheville Municipal Golf Course: I’ve previously fielded questions about the Asheville Municipal Golf Course, most recently noting in June that the city had spent $604,242 of the renovation project’s $2.9 million budget.
On Monday, Chris Corl, director of Community & Regional Entertainment Facilities for the city of Asheville, released an update on the course. It contains a lot of good stuff, including part of the course being used as a tree nursery. More about that in a minute.
In full disclosure, I’m a very bad but enthusiastic golfer, and I’ve played the Muni twice in the past few months. The improvements already made at the course have been fantastic, as the Donald Ross-designed gem dating to the 1920s really needed the work. I’m looking forward to more improvements, which are coming soon.
“Beginning this week additional work will begin on the remaining tee box complexes which have yet to be addressed,” Corl said. “When complete the tee box complexes at all 18 holes will have been rebuilt in accordance with the Donald Ross Revitalization Master plan.”
They should be completed by mid-September.
Removal and/or trimming of some trees at the course has been controversial, this being Asheville, but I’ll say it’s been done with a very light touch.
Corl said the city is partnering with Asheville Greenworks, the local nonprofit, on a tree replanting program. Asheville Greenworks will manage the neighborhood tree replanting program and “will be reaching out shortly to all who signed up for the program,” Corl said.
“Additionally we are working through the details with Asheville Greenworks to stand up small tree nursery sites on the course,” Corl said. “These nursery sites will allow for the nonprofit to grow trees, (en masse) for use by local governments and nonprofits in Buncombe Ccounty at low or no cost to the planting entity.”
“In total, when complete it is estimated that the golf course can help nursery around 300 trees at any given time,” Corl noted.
The relationship helps the Muni and the city with their goals of increasing the urban tree canopy in a cost effective manner.
“For golfers, a bonus of this program is the fact that the trees will be removed from the nursery spaces to be planted in their permanent homes when they reach a height between 6 and 12 feet, therefore not affecting play long term,” Corl said.
I’m sure I’ll be able to hit them even when they’ve been moved.
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 email@example.com or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.