Press release from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority:
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) announced today that it will provide $4.6 million to the City of Asheville to complete the southern section of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP). BCTDA determined that available dollars in the Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) at the end of the most recent cycle could be instrumental in making up the shortfall to restore the full scope of this important section of the City’s RADTIP project.
Mayor Esther Manheimer praised the TDA’s initiative. “The City is excited to be awarded this additional funding of $4.6 million,” she said. “This is an example of the important partnership between the City and the BCTDA. The BCTDA is living up to its mission to be a leader in the economic development of Buncombe County.”
The riverfront redevelopment project, which is intended to transform the area with multimodal greenways, bike lanes, sidewalks, river access and other amenities, went through the TPDF process during a previous cycle and was awarded $2,525,000. An additional grant of $975,000 was awarded for the Beaucatcher Greenway during the same funding cycle. Skyrocketing construction costs caused the City of Asheville to re-engineer the project and remove key elements in the place-making infrastructure plan.
“The TPDF Committee is enthusiastic about the potential of the River Arts District as a destination for visitors,” said Robert Foster, chair of the committee. “We recommended increasing the amount of the grant so that the plan envisioned by the community can become a reality.”
The vote was in tandem with approval of a $200,000 grant for Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center to move and expand into new space on Pack Square and a $72,500 award to the Haywood Street Congregation for the creation of a fresco that could become part of the NC Fresco Trail.
The Committee deferred action on an application from LEAF Community Arts for a Cultural Arts Center, a year-round cultural arts education institute and event center, pending additional information.
“The TDA is proud to facilitate these grants on behalf of lodging businesses in Buncombe County,” said, Jim Muth, chair of the BCTDA. “The grants approved today add to the enjoyment of living in this community. The projects will increase the tax base of our local governments and contribute to the future economic vitality of the Asheville area.”
Eight phase I applications were submitted during the current cycle. Four applicants were invited to submit phase 2 applications, but one of those chose not to move forward. The $4,872,500 funded today is in addition to an announcement earlier this year that BCTDA had approved a $2,250,000 request from the town of Woodfin and Buncombe County to develop a new river blueway and greenway that includes a whitewater wave feature to be built along the French Broad River. That project went through a separate TPDF pathway for larger place-making projects that leverage municipal funding.
Tourism product funding is generated from a portion of the room tax revenues paid by overnight visitors in Buncombe County lodging accommodations. State legislation mandates that projects must demonstrate an ability to produce incremental overnight stays in lodging in Buncombe County. Additional criteria was established by the BCTDA to ensure that projects are successful in creating spending at local businesses, jobs and tax revenue and benefitting community residents.
Since the inception of the TPDF fund in 2001, BCTDA has awarded $34.5 million to 34 community tourism projects. The amount includes more than $22 million provided to City of Asheville-owned projects which accounts for more than half of all funding. The tourism industry generates nearly $3 billion in annual economic impact to Buncombe County, supporting 26,700 jobs and generating $202.5 million in state and local taxes.
TOURISM PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT 2017 FUNDING CYCLE RECIPIENTS
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center on Pack Square Project
The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center project is a relocation and expansion from two small gallery spaces on Broadway in downtown Asheville to a new space at 120 College Street on Pack Square Park. The new space will include 2,500 square feet of flexible exhibition/event space, a permanent Black Mountain College history and research center, an expanded library, on-site storage for the permanent collection and a larger retail bookshop. This project will help solidify the museum as a strong and vital international art center, and further cement Asheville as a major cultural destination.
Recommended Amount: $200,000.
Haywood Street Congregation Fresco Project
The Haywood Street Congregation is planning to artfully portray its vision of community through a masterpiece artwork in the fresco medium covering the central wall of its sanctuary located at 297 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville. Fresco, best known as the technique used by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, is a process where the mixed pigments are absorbed by the plaster, becoming part of the wall. Asheville artist Christopher Holt, commissioned by Haywood to create the fresco, has worked on other frescoes in the region with renowned artist Ben Long. These frescoes have become tourist attractions in other parts of Western North Carolina as stops along the Blue Ridge National Heritage Trail. Once completed, the Haywood fresco will become part of the trail, helping to strengthen cultural and heritage tourism in the region.
Recommended Amount: $72,500.
Increase for City of Asheville Riverfront Destination Development Projects
The committee is recommending an increase in support for the City of Asheville Riverfront Destination Development projects. The projects have been vetted to meet the TPDF funding criteria. The BCTDA’s current grant for the projects totals $2,525,000. Additionally, $975,000 has been awarded for the Beaucatcher Greenway. This additional $4,600,000 will bring total BCTDA funding for the City of Asheville’s River Arts District development to $7,125,000. The enhanced TPDF grant will facilitate the completion of the southern section of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP) including roadway improvements, sidewalks, street trees, a protected bike lane, on street parking, public art and storm water improvements.
Recommended Amount: $4,600,000.
LEAF Cultural Arts Center Project
LEAF Community Arts, known for its signature events LEAF Festival and LEAF Downtown, is developing LEAF Cultural Arts Center, a year-round cultural arts education institute, event center and creative hub on the edge of downtown Asheville. The new center will include a 3,000 square-foot, multi-functional facility designed to connect cultures and create community through music and arts programming, creating a global arts engagement destination.
Requested Amount Pending Further Consideration: $937,000.