Around the Region: New owners to renovate Asheville’s Grove Park Inn

Published 6:18 pm Thursday, April 19, 2012

A private equity firm focused on travel and leisure plans to buy the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. and invest $25 million in a renovation that will preserve the historic character of the resort.
KSL Capital Partners LLC said it has agreed to acquire the inn from an affiliate of Sammons Enterprises Inc., a Dallas-based firm that has owned the property since 1955. KSL says it plans to renovate the Grove Park Inn’s guest rooms, dining areas, meeting spaces, public areas and spa. The 512-room resort, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America, features an 18-hole golf course designed by Donald Ross and a full-service spa.
Founded in 1992, KSL has grown to manage eight resorts and maintain offices in Denver and New York.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 4/10/12; Charlotte Business Journal, 4/11/12
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The real estate market continues to improve in Western North Carolina. Sales of existing homes in Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania and Haywood counties rose 27.8 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to figures from the N.C. Mountains Multiple Listings Service. Sales were up 27.2 percent for the same period in Buncombe County alone.
Sales still lag well behind the torrid pace seen at the height of the real estate market in the last decade, and the number of homes sold as a result of a foreclosure or distressed situation remains relatively high. However, real estate companies say the trend shows clear improvement.
Mark Ledbetter, director of operations at Prudential Lifestyle Realty, said he is “very, very optimistic that it’s not just a blip,” and the market is moving up along with overall consumer confidence in the economy.
– source: www.citizen-times.com, 4/5/12
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Home sales also showed improvement in South Carolina in the first quarter. “S.C. Realtors” reports statewide home sales rose 6.1 percent compared to the first quarter of 2011. The median price statewide also rose 2.1 percent for the same period.
The greatest improvement in home sales was seen in the Columbia and Spartanburg markets, where the number of units sold rose 15.3 percent and 14.3 percent, respectively. Greenville sales were up 9.9 percent. The Western Upstate market, the smallest in the state, saw the greatest median price increase at 12.7 percent. The median price was up 6.4 percent in Greenville and 3.3 percent in Spartanburg.
Pending sales were up 8.6 percent in March, while new listings fell 11.3 percent, indicating the positive trend may continue. The average length of time on the market for homes sold in March was 139 days, six days less than a year ago.
– source: www.gsabusines.com, 4/16/12
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Banks are lending more to small business in North Carolina, but it’s unclear how much impact it will have on employment. The U.S. Department of Treasury reports banks have increased lending by $124.4 million to small businesses in North Carolina since they received capital through the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF). Lending increased by $50.5 million in South Carolina over the same period.
The SBLF, created in 2010 to help small businesses grow and create jobs, invested more than $4 billion in 332 institutions in 48 states. Neal Wolin, deputy secretary of the treasury, said the latest report on lending shows the fund is having “a powerful impact” and helping local entrepreneurs invest in their businesses and create jobs. However, a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found that a net 0 percent of respondents plan to add jobs in the coming months.
The federal government also recently enacted into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which will help small businesses and high-growth enterprises raise capital from investors more efficiently.
– source: Charlotte Business Journal, 4/13/12
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The number of people in North Carolina without health insurance rose significantly between 2005 and 2010, according to the N.C. Institute of Medicine. The institute reports the number of uninsured citizens increased by 291,000 to 750,000.
The total shows nearly one in five nonelderly people in the state lacked health insurance in 2009-2010. The institute reports that two-thirds of the uninsured are in families with at least one full-time worker. The percentage of uninsured who live in families with no workers, part-time workers and one full-time worker increased 12 percent in five years, probably because of the recession, said the institute.
According to the report, more than two thirds of the uninsured in the state live in urban areas, while the number of uninsured in rural areas declined by more than 4 percent over the five-year period.
– source: www.wsoctv.com, 4/16/12
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Racing is returning to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.  After several decades without racing, the fairgrounds will start hosting weekly events beginning this Saturday, April 21 at 1 p.m. Thousands of fans are expected to show up this weekend at the oval short track that hosted its first race in 1956. The last race was held at the track on Aug. 5, 1965.
After the opening event April 21, races will continue at the fairgrounds each Friday night into the fall, from 8 to 11 p.m.
– source: www.shelbystar.com, 4/17/12
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A warm winter and early spring prompted apple trees and other crops to bloom early this year, putting them at risk when temperatures plummeted recently.
Marvin Owens, the N.C. Extension Services agent in Henderson County, said the recent cold snap damaged the apple crop in Western North Carolina. Owens says it will take several days to assess the extent of the damage. Temperatures dropped to around or just below freezing during the latest cold snap.
Kenny Barnwell, a farmer in Henderson County, says the cold weather caused extensive damage to his 10 acres of peach trees and also damaged his apple crop. The mild winter caused apple trees to bloom about two weeks earlier than normal.
– source: www.citizen-times.com, 4/13/12
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Warm weather may have contributed to a jump in the number of people visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park so far this year. The park reports a 19.5-percent jump in the number of visitors through the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year.
More than 200,000 more people traveled to the 500,000-acre national park so far this year. March was particularly busy at the park with a 21.7 percent jump in visitors compared to March 2011.
– source: www.blueridgenow.com, 4/19/12
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Henderson County commissioners voted this week to allow solar farms of 30 acres or less, clearing the way for several property owners who are interested in the land use. The amendment to the county’s Land Development Code passed on a 3-2 vote after commissioners had a lengthy discussion about the change and heard from residents.
Several landowners urged commissioners to approve the change because they are struggling to keep their land, and solar farms would provide more revenue than agriculture. Some solar companies expressed interest in leasing land for solar farms in the county if the amendment was passed.
Land owners can begin immediately applying for a special use permit to allow the farms.
– source: www.blueridgenow.com, 4/19/12
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The Buncombe County school board approved a policy last week to make it clear that school employees “shall not use their positions to disparage, endorse, or promote a particular religious belief, viewpoint, expression or practice.”
Following a controversy earlier this year at North Windy Ridge Intermediate School, the school board decided it should put into writing the requirement that school officials and employees must follow federal law and neither “advance nor inhibit” religious beliefs.
A mother of a student at North Windy Ridge complained after her son came home with a Bible left at the school by Gideons International. The district’s new policy states that the superintendent will provide training for staff and publish guidelines for students and staff. The guidelines state that students can read their Bibles, say grace before meals, “and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour or other non-instructional time to the same extent that they may engage in non-religious activities.”
– source: www.citizen-times.com, 4/13/12
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Warren Haynes, a Grammy-winning blues-rock musician, recently delivered a $210,000 check to the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. The donation came from the annual Christmas Jam concert held by Haynes and his wife, Stefani Scamardo.
This year’s proceeds from the concert were the largest since the event began and raised the total the couple has contributed to the Asheville Habitat organization to $1.16 million.
Lew Kraus, executive director for Habitat for Humanity in Asheville, said the donations provided by Haynes and his wife have been enough to build 21 homes. Haynes, a former member of the Allman Brothers Band and Phil Lesh and Friends who also gained fame through his own groups Gov’t Mule and the Warren Haynes Band, played a sold-out show recently at The Orange Peel in Asheville.
– source: www.citizen-times.com, 4/16/12