"We're still in process with The Ellington, we're still in all of our interior-design phase, and [the start of construction is] probably going to be next summer, late next summer," Tessier tells Xpress.
Developers of the 23-story art-deco-inspired high-rise, named after the late, legendary Asheville architect Douglas Ellington, originally planned to break ground this past summer and open in 2009. While the economy is indeed troublesome, with projects here and elsewhere encountering hurdles with financing and other various issues, Tessier says the recession hasn't been the real issue behind the delay.
"When we did the proposals, they were all originally about the exterior of the building," she says. "So we've been working to do all the interior stuff and the pricing, and programming what we believe to be all the sales of the property. I'm not aware of any problem with The Ellington. We remain quite positive about it."
While many opponents of the building have expressed anger over its sheer size -- technically it would be the city's tallest building, though it would appear shorter since it would be built on the city's downward southern slope -- others have expressed concern over how the building might disrupt traffic and commerce along heavily trafficked Biltmore Avenue.
"There obviously is one small building that has to come down, but our engineers and development team are very savvy about doing that in urban centers," Tessier says. "So they've already been through a lot of engineering studies about the surrounding area, and working very closely with the city on all the traffic and construction issues. The project will be staged from down the street; it is our goal to minimize impact to surrounding businesses as much as possible, not only because we want to be good neighbors during the construction period, but because we want them and us to all emerge vibrant on the street at the same time when the project is completed.
"I'd have to say that this group of folks has been more thoughtful about all the construction staging and relationship with neighbors," Tessier adds. "It is our plan, about six months prior to construction, to start holding meetings regularly with neighbors to ascertain their concerns and work with them to mitigate any impacts and come up with better solutions."