Asheville Chamber signs deal to sell 45% of its Montford office to Lenoir-Rhyne University (UPDATED)

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has signed a contract to sell 45 percent of the Chamber of Commerce building at 36 Montford Ave. to Lenoir-Rhyne University, to be used as the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville, according to an announcement today from Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Kit Cramer.

The Chamber began considering building a new facility in the 1990s, got City Council to rezone the head of Montford Avenue for commercial use in 1999, sought approval in 2000 from the Historic Resources Commission to build in Montford (threatening to relocate to the Farmers Market near I-40 if the approval wasn’t forthcoming), and opened its new facility in 2006.

At the time of the building’s grand opening, the third floor of the building was being offered for commercial lease. Chamber officials said the 7,219-square-foot space — about 22 percent of the facility — could be built out to suit almost any user.

The Montford facility is 33,000 square feet in size, in addition to a 4,000-square-foot visitor center. At the time of the opening, one staff member called the facility “amazing.” The hilly site still allowed for a 147-space parking lot to accommodate an expected 250,000 visitors annually.

Here’s today’s announcement from the Chamber:

Chamber President and CEO Kit Cramer announced today that a contract has been signed to sell  a portion of the Chamber’s building at 36 Montford Avenue to Lenoir-Rhyne University for the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville.
“The sale would put us in a stronger financial position,” said Cramer.  “It will also allow us to focus on our core business: growing jobs and the business environment and helping members succeed, rather than serving as a landlord.”
She described the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville as “complementary to the Chamber’s function.”  “They will be serving adult students in the evenings and on weekends when we’re not using the building as much.  And they have indicated their interest in helping preserve the building’s function as the area’s visitor center as well as a place to convene on important community issues. We think they’ll be great neighbors.”
Lenoir-Rhyne has signed a contract to purchase the third floor and a portion of the second floor, including a suite of offices and the Board Room space.  However, the Board Room is under an easement allowing for its use as meeting room space by the Chamber in perpetuity.
Lenoir-Rhyne will own 45 percent of the space in the building with the remainder being held by the Chamber and anticipates offering master’s level programs beginning in August 2012.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Lenoir-Rhyne will pay $2.1 million for the third floor and a portion of the second floor … the deal won’t likely close until the end of February at the earliest. … The chamber also needs rezoning approval from the city to allow the college to use the space for classes.

Lenoir-Rhyne University is based in Hickory and affiliated with the Lutheran Church. The university’s website announces its Asheville Center here:

To begin laying the groundwork for the Center, Lenoir-Rhyne recently appointed Dr. K. Paul Knott as the founding director of the Center. As director, Dr. Knott will be considering a variety of programs in formats designed to meet the diverse needs of graduate students. Lenoir-Rhyne expects to provide several offerings in health care, business and government, liberal arts and sciences and education and human services. Programs that delve into creativity, innovation, and sustainability will also be considered for possible inclusion in the curriculum.

The Asheville Center is being designed to provide graduate programs in Asheville for the region that are consistent with the high quality undergraduate education L-R has become known for. The anticipated program offerings will be designed and delivered to meet the personal, professional and economic development needs of Asheville and the Western North Carolina region. …

L-R’s website asks visitors to take a survey about what sorts of studies should be offered. The website lists the anticipated degree offerings:

Health Care/Sciences
  Dietetics Internship (focus on obesity in children)
  Master of Public Health
  Master of Science in Nursing

Business and Government
  Master of Business Administration (with the following track options):
      Business and Sustainability – “green MBA”
      Tourism and Hospitality
      Health Care Administration
      Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialization
      Arts Entrepreneurship

Liberal Arts and Sciences
  Master of Arts in Writing
  Master of Science in Environmental Studies

Education and Human Services
  Master of Arts in Counseling
  Master of Arts in Leadership
  Master of Arts in Teaching
  Master of Arts in Community College Administration






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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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