Story by Mark Barrett of the Asheville Citizen-Times, Photo by John Fletcher.
A local development company hopes to attract a few people who want to go green — and have a lot of green — to a 13-story building it plans to build on a postage stamp-sized lot downtown.
The 10 condominiums at 73 N. Market St. would sell for $2.1 million to $2.6 million and come with a photovoltaic array on the roof, an underground garage designed to fit only the fuel-sipping Smart Fortwo subcompact car and other features designed to lessen the building’s environmental impact.
The building would be among downtown’s taller structures and would sit on a lot a little larger than 40-by-70 feet.
But that’s only if North Market Street Investments, which unveiled its plans Tuesday, can convince enough buyers to sign on.
The local housing market has tanked over the past couple of years and the most expensive homes on the market have generally been slowest to sell.
According to data from real estate analyst Don Davies, only 35 Buncombe County homes sold for $1 million or more last year.
At the end of the year, there were 246 such homes on the market — a seven-year supply at the current absorption rate.
Jim Privette, developer of the nearby 60 North Market condominium building, which is in the closing stages of construction, wondered whether there is demand for units that are that small and that expensive.
Each unit would be about 2,300 square feet and occupy an entire floor of the building, meaning the cost per square foot would be around $1,000.
“We have not seen that” demand, Privette said, although he added there hasn’t been a supply of what North Market Street Investments proposes.
“It’s always a little bit of chicken and egg. If you don’t have it, you don’t know if there is demand,” Privette said.
Jeremy Goldstein, a local commercial real estate broker who is managing member of North Market Street Investments, said work won’t move ahead until at least six units are spoken for: “We have no desire to construct an empty building.”
But Goldstein said he is “optimistic” the project will fly despite market trends, precisely because there is nothing quite like it downtown.
He said the building will offer “a new level of fine living in downtown Asheville, but in an innovative and eco-friendly way.”
Other green features would include a so-called “green” roof for part of the building, water-conserving fixtures, high-efficiency appliances, and automated lighting and shading systems.
Each unit would come with a tiny Smart Fortwo vehicle and the building would be designed so plug-in electric cars could be used in the garage.
Goldstein says the two-level underground garage would be the first parking structure designed for only one model of car, and that larger vehicles would not fit. Designing the building with parking for regular-sized cars would require a mechanized system that wouldn’t be practical for such a small project, he said.
The cars will become the “Asheville car” for some part-time residents who will fly to their units periodically, Goldstein predicted.
The first floor of the building would contain a small commercial space. The second would have an exercise room and spa and a guest room for visitors of building residents. A lounge and garden would top the building off.
The building would be mostly brick with some metal and glass in a modern style. Elihu Siegman of builder Siegman Associates said it would be roughly the same height as the nearby Renaissance Asheville hotel.
He thinks the design, developed with architect Michael Silverman, will fit with the neighborhood, which now is mostly made up of brick buildings containing law offices and subsidized housing.
“The best buildings of Asheville were of their time” in design, he said. “We feel that this building is of its time.”
The building will require approval by city staff but is too small to be subject to City Council approval. Construction should take about two years if enough buyers are located, Goldstein said.