It’s not every day that the city of Asheville returns nearly $1 million in grant money to a funder, but that’s what happened on Jan. 30 at the monthly meeting of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
The city received a $1 million grant to create “Riverfront Destination 2.0” in 2015, said Pat Kappes, director of public affairs for Explore Asheville, the BCTDA-funded convention and visitors bureau. The package included $25,000 to create a crosswalk and river access on Amboy Road, which have been completed.
But the majority of the award was a $975,000 contribution toward construction of the Beaucatcher Greenway, which the city will now remove from its budget. The 1.2-mile project proposes to create a “wooded corridor below the crest and on the western side of the Beaucatcher Mountain’s ridge, with commanding views of downtown Asheville,” according to the city’s greenways website.
The terms of the grant required that the greenway open to the public by June 30, 2018. As of Jan. 30, the city’s classification of its status was “shovel-ready but pending funding,” with no construction actually begun.
“There’s been significant change in scope and direction from the city of Asheville,” Kappes told board members. “So their update is to let us know that they’re not moving forward with that greenway at this point.”
Stephanie Brown, Explore Asheville’s president and CEO, noted that returning the money to the Tourism Product Development Fund pot will make it available for other local projects.
Asheville City Council member Julie Mayfield, who is a nonvoting member of the board, quipped that, while the city was “giving money back” in this case, “We’ll come for it again.”
After the meeting, city spokesperson Polly McDaniel clarified the status of the project. “The Beaucatcher Greenway is still planned to be built. The land remains publicly owned. The estimated time for construction is 2024,” she wrote in an email, adding in response to a follow-up question that the route of the planned greenway has not changed. Since 2012, the city has spent $362,398 on design, engineering and other project costs.
As Xpress reported in 2016, initial plans for a 10-foot-wide paved path had by then given way to an alternate approach focused on the use of natural surfaces, scaled-back tree removal and fewer retaining walls. At that time, Iona Thomas of Stewart, the engineering and planning firm contracted to perform the greenway design, estimated that the eventual price tag for the project would top $4 million due to increases in construction costs.
Construction bids for the project opened on Dec. 16, 2016, ranged from $4.6 million to $9.3 million from five bidders.
More information on the Beaucatcher Greenway:
- City weighs environmental pros and cons of natural greenways, Jan. 18, 2018
- Beaucatcher Greenway gets nod from Council for construction bidding, April 13, 2016
- Forest for the trees? Residents seek answers on Beaucatcher Greenway, March 2, 2016
- Greenway in the sky: Beaucatcher park offers tantalizing prospect, Nov. 5, 2015