Gregg Covin is no stranger to iconic residential projects. The Miami-based developer has built dozens of luxury condo and hotel projects in South Florida over his more than 30-year career,
including the internationally acclaimed One Thousand Museum in Downtown Miami.
His latest project is well north of Miami – 670 miles north – in Hendersonville,
N.C. just south of Asheville Although the location might be a surprise to some,
Western North Carolina is becoming less of a well-kept secret and an increasingly popular vacation and second home destination,
especially from the jet set based in South Florida and the Northeast.
The area boasts a variety of attributes ranging from outdoor recreation and the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains to entertainment and experiences found in the many wineries, art galleries, apple orchards and restaurants.
As any good developer knows, real estate is all about the location, and Hendersonville has it.
The town sits within a 30-minute radius of regional attractions such as Downtown Asheville,
the Biltmore Mansion, Asheville Regional Airport and the Blue Ridge Parkway,
as well as both the Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest.
“The Asheville/Hendersonville region has been evolving into an “Aspen East” that caters both to middle-income and wealthy visitors and buyers,” says Covin.
However, the area was lacking 5-star living for visitors and homebuyers.
Covin aims to change that with Fairmont Heritage Place – The Cedars condo residences.
Located in the heart of Downtown Hendersonville, The Cedars is a 130-unit project set on 3.5 acres that combines the history of the original structure with luxury, full-service living and amenities.
Blending history and luxury
For Covin, the project has high stakes and tough critics – his own family.
His wife Shelley grew up in Hendersonville and her family, the Shipmans, have owned The Cedars property for more than four decades, operating it as a wedding venue.
His in-laws have been asking Covin for years when he was going to redevelop the property.
Increasingly, family visits to the area had Covin bumping into some familiar faces,
including Miami developers such as Lyle Chariff and John Turchin, both of whom are actively investing in the area.
That growing momentum convinced Covin that the timing – and demand – was right for a luxury condo development.
Originally built in 1914 in Neo-Classical Revival style by railroad tycoon J.W. Bailey,
the property served as a hotel before it was acquired by the Shipman family in 1976.
The historic building will serve as the front door of the whole complex.
It provides that “Great Gatsby” moment where you are pulling up to this very regal, historic structure,
and that historic character carries throughout the project, notes Covin.
The concept is somewhat modeled after similar projects that have designed new structures around historic buildings,
such as the Four Seasons Surf Club in Miami and the Viceroy in Chicago, as well as the Anglers Hotel (now Kimpton) that Covin developed in Miami.
Currently, site work is underway, and the first phase involves constructing two new buildings surrounding the historic Cedars building with a total of 130 units,
including studios, 1-, 2-, 3-bedrooms and penthouses with prices ranging from $400,000 to $3.8 million.
The first building will open in late 2024 followed by the second building in early 2025.
Covin recently signed a branding and management agreement with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, which is part of the Accor Global Hospitality Group.
Fairmont Hotels operates a number of other landmark properties, such as The Plaza in New York City and The Savoy in London.
The highly amenitized project also will feature a Fairmont spa, fitness center, restaurant and lounges,
and a conference center with meeting spaces that include a ballroom.
Owners can enjoy all the benefits of owning a home with access to luxurious amenities and world-class services,
and they also can choose to participate in Fairmont’s rental program.
“Nothing exists in the mountains of North Carolina that even comes close to what The Cedars will offer. Units have high-end finishes and full-service five-star amenities will rival the best hotels in the world,” says real estate broker Mark Zilbert.
The project also will be difficult to replicate.
The Cedars is one of the largest projects ever approved in Hendersonville, and there are significant barriers to entry with little land available in the city for development.
“There is a confidence level among our buyers that if Gregg is building in Hendersonville, people know that he’s going to do something amazing,” adds Zilbert.
His most recent project, One Thousand Museum, was designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, with units that were purchased by the likes of David Beckham, Mark Anthony, Lucy Guo, and Anthony Hsieh.
The secret is out on Hendersonville
Zilbert has seen several of his high-end clients from Miami relocate to the region and build massive, estate-type homes in the area,
and in fact, Zilbert has built his own estate home south of Asheville.
“There is a high demand for ultra-luxury, full-service communities and condos, and yet there have not been, until now, any developers catering to that specific need,” says Zilbert.
Visitors and buyers want service-rich communities, with a concierge, spa and personalized services,
and that simply doesn’t yet exist in the area, he adds.
Hendersonville’s reputation as a “go-to” destination has been rising by simple word-of-mouth.
In other cases, visitors that are going to the Asheville area are discovering Hendersonville as well.
That growing popularity is evidenced by increased visitor traffic.
For example, the Asheville Airport (AVL) is expected to break its current annual record of 1.6 million visitors set in 2019 with more than 600,000 travelers year-to-day through May 2022, according to Spectrum Local News.
“There is something really special happening here. If you visit Downtown Hendersonville, it reminds you a bit of any of the town centers in the Hamptons,” says Zilbert.
“It is this incredible classic, very charming city, with shopping, dining, entertainment and the arts.”
Zilbert credits the growing popularity of Asheville/Hendersonville in part to the boom in the South Florida market.
For the past 20 years or so there has been incredible growth in South Florida with people relocating and building homes in the area that has fostered a sizable luxury residential market.
“What started to happen is that people didn’t want to be in Miami or Naples year-round, and they started to look around and say, ‘what are my choices?’” says Zilbert.
Asheville is now an easy reach from Fort Lauderdale/Miami and New York City with direct flights that are about 90 minutes.
Buyers from South Florida and the Northeast started flocking to Western North Carolina and building very grand homes about 10 years ago.
“Not everyone wants a luxury house or a cabin in the woods. So, we saw the opportunity to build luxury, full-service condos with all of the amenities that people expect, and buyers are really responding to it,” says Covin.
“Having that second home to escape to, especially one that is outside of a big city, is very attractive to people these days.”