News in brief: TDA grants, ACA open enrollment

JOYFUL NOISE: The planned LEAF Global Arts Center on Eagle Street received a $705,000 grant from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. Located in the historic Del Cardo building, the 3,300-square-foot center will include a mini-theater and a sound area where visitors can experiment with musical instruments. The project is one of six that received a total of nearly $10 million in funding from lodging tax revenues on Oct. 31. Image courtesy of Explore Asheville

Nearly $10 million awarded to local projects

On Oct. 31, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority approved nearly $10 million in funding for six local projects. The authority also announced it will pause its grantmaking in 2019 as it develops a long-range plan to address infrastructure and sustainability needs.

During the Oct. 31 meeting of the BCTDA, Chair Jim Muth said, “We know that the amount of growth that we’ve had brings its own challenges, and we’re really trying to be creative about how to address those.”

BCTDA plans to establish a steering committee and work with consulting firm PGAV, Inc., to develop a strategy for the next 10 years.

The largest single award in the 2018 cycle was a $6 million grant to Buncombe County Recreation Services for expansion and improvements to the Buncombe County Sports Park and Bob Lewis Ballfields, along with development of the Enka Heritage Trail, which will include interpretive panels and activities along a 2-mile paved greenway and pedestrian bridge that connects the parks.

BCTDA is also funding a series of projects that further develops the Eagle Street area and establishes an African-American Heritage District. Those projects include $100,000 for initial efforts to create museum-quality exhibits at the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, $800,000 for improvements to the historic YMI Cultural Center and $705,000 for development of the LEAF Global Arts Center in the Del Cardo Building on Eagle Street. BCTDA will also fund the African-American District interpretive kiosks and signage through its Wayfinding Program, which will provide future maintenance. Project stakeholders will work with BCTDA and Explore Asheville to develop content, imagery and interactive components as well as a plan for design development, fabrication and installation of interpretative signage and kiosks.

The BCTDA waived a fund-matching requirement for the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center grant. Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Brown explained to Xpress after the meeting, “I feel like such a burden has been put on community volunteers … we need to bolster this with some resources, without taking it over, to see all of these things come to fruition.”

The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design was awarded $975,000 for facility enhancements, while The North Carolina Arboretum will receive $905,000 for garden lighting and expanded parking for evening programs and events.

According to a press release, “Tourism product development funding is generated from a portion of the room tax revenues paid by overnight visitors in Buncombe County lodging accommodations. Since the inception of the TPDF fund in 2001, BCTDA has now awarded more than $44 million to 39 community tourism projects. The tourism industry generates an economic impact of $3.1 billion in annual economic impact to Buncombe County, direct expenditures of $2 billion and supports 27,241 jobs.”

ACA open enrollment runs through Dec. 15

The open enrollment period for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act began Nov. 1 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 15. Pisgah Legal Services offers free, in-person assistance for those wishing to enroll.

In a press release, Pisgah Legal Managing Attorney Jackie Kiger said, “There is a short period of time to consider a lot of different options for health insurance during open enrollment. The process can be overwhelming. We hope people will take advantage of this free help with trained counselors who can guide them through this process.”

Appointments may be scheduled online at avl.mx/5f0 or by calling 828-210-3404.

Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Last year, more than 90 percent of North Carolinians who enrolled for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace received financial assistance to make their plans more affordable.

Sweeten Creek widening meeting Nov. 13

The N.C. Department of Transportation and the city of Asheville will host a public meeting about the proposed widening of Sweeten Creek Road from Hendersonville Road to Rock Hill Road 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Arden Presbyterian Church, 2215 Hendersonville Road.

According to a press release, “The purpose of the project is to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow within the project limits. A combination of east side and west side widening alternatives are being considered to minimize impacts to residential communities, churches, businesses, historic properties, as well as wetlands and streams including Sweeten Creek.”

Residents may comment at the drop-in meeting or by phone, email or mail through Thursday, Dec. 13. Information available at avl.mx/5f6 or by contacting NCDOT Project Manager, Ahmad Al-Sharawneh, at 919-707-6010 or aalsharawneh@ncdot.gov or Consultant Project Manager Craig Young, P.E., at 919-656-6581 or craig.young@threeoaksengineering.com.

 

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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