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Hotel Development Insider

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This Southern Town Is One of the Best Food Cities in America With a Boutique Hotel Scene to Match

Asheville’s boutique hotel scene is booming with new properties paying homage to the town’s creative energy and culture.

By Dobrina Zhekova Published on May 5, 2024


Nestled among the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, Asheville has evolved into a bustling hospitality hub boasting critically acclaimed restaurants, independent boutiques, over 50 craft breweries, and live music venues. 

But in the past year, the town's luxury boutique hotel scene has also grown with several properties inspired by its rich history, culture, and natural beauty, making it possible for visitors to experience the creative, culinary, and historical facets of Asheville in an authentic and immersive way.

"Independent hotels have a different opportunity for expression," Amy Michaelson Kelly, principal and chief operations officer at Hatteras Sky, an Atlanta-based commercial real estate development firm behind several of the town's most notable recent openings, told Travel + Leisure.


After buying an abandoned 1920s cereal factory, Hatteras Sky partnered with Rob Blood, the founder of Lark Hotels, who operates boutique hotels on the East Coast and California, and opened The Radical, a 70-key property along the French Broad River in Asheville's River Arts District (also known as RAD, which inspired the hotel's name).

In keeping with the area's creative reputation — it is home to more than 270 artists and working studios—the hotel offers an eclectic setting that features graffiti, some of which had been in the building before its development as a hotel, custom art installations, and a range of public spaces, including a rooftop bar, a restaurant, Golden Hour, dreamed up by Asheville resident and two-time James Beard-nominated restaurateur Jacob Sessoms, and after/glow, a cafe that transforms into a trendy bar with a DJ booth, hanging from the ceiling in a metal sphere.

"It's essentially a living piece of art and a performance space, in addition to the benefit of having 70 hotel rooms," Blood said of The Radical, noting that the property has quickly become an anchor in the community and a hangout spot for many residents. 

Live art demo sessions highlighting different local artists, live music, and a dinner series dedicated to women in business are just some of the most recent events and activities happening on-site and accessible to both the community and guests. 


"One of the reasons I go to Asheville is because I want to be immersed in the community because there's so much richness there. And the only way to get connected to that community is by being surrounded by it," Blood added. 

The property commissioned over a dozen artists to create work displayed throughout the hotel. With their exposed brick walls covered in graffiti, the guestrooms have a raw, industrial-chic aesthetic without skipping luxuries like marble bathrooms with walk-in showers, floor-to-ceiling windows, plush bath robes, and Grown Alchemist toiletries. The restaurant offers hand-crafted cocktails and a seasonal menu featuring the freshest local ingredients prepared in an open kitchen with a wood-fired grill. 


Blood is behind another recent boutique stay, Blind Tiger, This one opened in the summer of 2023 in Asheville's Chestnut Hill neighborhood, which is emerging as a wellness hotspot. With just 14 rooms, the hotel sits in a former 1889 private home and feels much more residential, blending vintage and contemporary pieces. The hotel provides guests a letter from their local "host," an Ashevillian who shares their favorite spots and activities in town.

The concept behind Blind Tiger, of which there are two more outposts in Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont, is to make guests feel like "they're staying with a friend who knows everything you should do that's not on Yelp or TripAdvisor," Blood explained. 


However, for those who like to be within steps of downtown, Zelda Dearest, which opened in October 2023, immerses them in a world inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, who spent her final years in Asheville (she died in a fire in the psychiatric hospital where she was being treated). The property, for which Amy Michaelson Kelly worked with the Zelda Fitzgerald estate, celebrates the early romance of the novelist and artist and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The 20-room hotel is spread between three historic Victorian-style mansions, overlooking Biltmore Avenue in downtown's South Slope neighborhood, and oozes an intimate vibe. The spacious rooms and suites, designed by Nashville-based firm Anderson Design Studio, have king-sized beds, separate lounge areas, large bathrooms with walk-in showers, and a smart and sophisticated design sprinkled with art deco references and artwork inspired by Fitzgerald. 



"We wanted to create a feminine property that's residential and collected. Because of [Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's] travels, we wanted it to feel collected; we didn't want it to feel too uniform," Kelly explained.

The property also has a courtyard-like space and a cozy parlor bar with menus of local brews and wines curated by Sessoms.

The town's most recent boutique opening is in its bustling downtown and pays homage to Asheville's Art Deco heritage. The Flat Iron Hotel, opened its doors at the end of last month in a landmark historic building of the same name, dating back to 1926. Asheville experienced a building boom during the roaring 20s led by renowned architect Douglas Ellington. Original 1920s design details surround travelers staying at the 71-room hotel — look for the beautiful transom windows — but they also have many modern amenities to take advantage of, such as an upscale Italian eatery and a rooftop bar with stunning views over the town and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Original article from Travel + Leisure can be found here:

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