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A tea house in Black Mountain is slated to close this weekend because it's in the path of development that will bring a big change to downtown.

Dobra Tea, on Broadway Avenue, will shutter Sunday, and husband-and-wife owners Andrew Snavely and Lindsey Azlynne will begin packing up their business. Other Dobra tea houses — one in West Asheville and another in downtown Asheville — will remain open.

"But July is the busiest time in Black Mountain," said Snavely. "And they're literally leveling our building in July."

Snavely, who opened Dobra there in 2013, said his five-year lease ends in July. 

Read more: Asheville is steeped in tea culture: Where to drink it in 

The property, which had been for sale, was purchased by investor and part-time Black Mountain resident Joe Cordell for parking for a hotly debated, three-story mixed-use development coming to the town of around 8,400.

That development has been renamed Railway Exchange from the initially proposed Trestle Crossing.

It includes plans for a multiuse building spanning part of Broadway Avenue, from the Ice House to the Mountain Vista Properties real estate office.

The Ice House itself is slated for renovations to turn it into a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, outfitted with a commercial kitchen, courtyard and a rooftop dining area.

Sunday Grant, a Black Mountain resident for 16 years, is an agent with the Western North Carolina-based Greybeard Realty, and the leasing agent for Railway Exchange. 

The restaurant space has not yet been leased, she said. "But I don't foresee a chain restaurant going in there, but it's so early in the planning stages."

She also said six retail or office spaces on the ground level of the property should be about 1,000-1,200 square feet, and are available for lease for about $20 per square foot. 

The three-story development will also include 12 short-term vacation rental condos, two above each retail space. Grant said plans show parking for the guest units will be on the property where Dobra Tea now sits. 

The Railway Exchange project was initially struck down by the Black Mountain Historic Preservation Commission, which said the plans did not meet historic district guidelines. 

The following month, the town zoning board overturned the Historic Preservation Commission's decision.

Read more: Zoning board gives Trestle Crossing the green light

Grant acknowledged that the project had been controversial with many Black Mountain residents. "But I've been thrilled about it, and was excited to be brought on as the leasing agent."

Grant, 39, said the majority of her friends live in Black Mountain, and are excited about the new development and the shopping and dining options it would bring. 

She added that the new businesses and vacation rentals will help draw more people to downtown Black Mountain.

"The season dies down a lot in the winter, so more people interested in coming to Black Mountain is going to be a benefit to everyone."

Buildout for the property should take about 16 months.

Meanwhile, Snavely and Azlynne, who were given six month's notice to vacate, have been looking for a new space for Dobra, but most everything is financially out of reach or needs a lot of work, Snavely said.

"As soon as Black Mountain won 'Prettiest Small Town in America' on TripAdvisor (in 2017), that's when all these millionaires began to buy up property around here," he said.

Snavely said he sunk money into the Black Mountain Dobra building, originally constructed around the '20s as a stable.

His improvements include a new patio and now-mature gardens, including an oolong tea plant and Japanese maple trees. "It's gorgeous right now."

"We built that tea house as a safe family-oriented, beautiful and spirited space to enjoy quietness, stillness and tea culture in the mountains," he added, noting that the Railway Exchange would have the opposite effect.

"It's going to impact a lot of people in the community," he said. 

Snavely has owned a house in Black Mountain since 2013, and he told the Black Mountain News last year that he wanted to help preserve the small-town feel. 

"I'm really fighting for our town to remain like a village or small town. I want this town to be different than other towns," he said.

Black Mountain Ale House owner John Richardson's wife, Shanda Richardson, resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission after the HPC's motion to deny permitting to the Railway project was overturned.

"I am disappointed that the (HPC) has been rendered powerless to uphold (its) responsibility," she said in the letter. "As a result, I can no longer continue to serve." 

The front of Richardson's pub will lose its mountain view because of the Railway Exchange development, he said.

"My patio is the most popular part of my seating plan, and people come to Black Mountain because they want to be outdoors," he said.

Richardson, who has owned property in Black Mountain for at least 20 years and now supports 30 employees and has another business in the works, said he's afraid the town is losing its character.

He expressed fears that the new development would look like "a mini Biltmore Park when you come into town."

Black Mountain is special because it's a small community said Richardson, who also asserted that he's not anti-development. But he's wary of an influx of people with money doing whatever they want without consulting full-time locals, he said. 

"We're intentionally Black Mountain. We don't want to be a mini Asheville, we want to be Black Mountain," Richardson said. "We want people who will invest in the community, but also be a part of the community and have the courtesy to come in and also talk to the community."

 

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