ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 31, 2018) — The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) approved nearly $10 million in funding for six projects that will be used by thousands of residents while also increasing visitor spending in the county. The Authority also announced it will pause the TPDF cycle in 2019 while it pursues a process that will result in a long-range plan that can serve as a blueprint for continued collaboration to address infrastructure and sustainability needs.

“Maintaining the quality of our city for locals is maintaining the quality of our city for visitors, said BCTDA Chair Jim Muth, owner of Beaufort House Inn. “As residents of this community, we understand that it is critical to preserve, protect and grow sustainably for the mutual benefit of residents and visitors alike.”

BCTDA plans to establish a steering committee and work with PGAV, Inc., experts in urban planning, to outline strategic priorities and develop effective approaches to destination development over the next ten years.

“This is the next big step in an ongoing collaborative process to address significant community projects,” added Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Brown. “As we award a record amount to TDPF projects, it is important to embark on a long-range vision with our municipal partners and other public entities toward placemaking and big-picture proactive investment in our community.”

The largest single award in the 2018 cycle was approval of the TPDF recommendation of 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 includes interpretive panels and activities along a two-mile paved greenway and pedestrian bridge that connects the parks and assets.

“The TPDF has funded so many projects like this one that are a win for our residents, families and businesses,” said TPDF Chair Robert Foster, director of hotel operations at Biltmore Farms. “Hotel room taxes are adding enriching, multi-faceted assets that our community values while also enhancing the ability to attract overnight visitation, in this instance, through sports tournaments that bring in families who will stay overnight and spend money at our local businesses.”

BCTDA is also funding a series of projects that further develops the Eagle Street area and establishes an African-American Heritage District and interpretive trails. Those projects include $100,000 for initial efforts to create museum-quality exhibits at the Stephen’s-Lee Recreation Center, $800,000 for improvements to the historic YMI Cultural Center and $705,000 for development of the LEAF Global Arts Center on Eagle Street. BCTDA will also fund the African-American District interpretive kiosks and signage through its established Wayfinding Program which also incorporates 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 additional support and resources provided by BCTDA is helpful in expediting this much-needed project that celebrates and shares the legacy and contributions of African-Americans in our community,” said River Front Development Group Executive Director Catherine Mitchell who is spearheading the effort. “We welcome the Explore Asheville team in this collaborative effort to preserve and protect Asheville’s African-American history and culture.

The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design was awarded $975,000 for enhancements that transform the center into a National Craft Innovation Hub. The North Carolina Arboretum will receive $905,00 for lighting of its gardens and expanded parking necessary for development of evening programs and events.

Tourism product development 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 established by the BCTDA ensures 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 now awarded more than $44 million to 39 community tourism projects. The tourism industry generates an economic impact of $3.1 in annual economic impact to Buncombe County, direct expenditures of $2 billion and supports 27,241 jobs.



 Enka Recreation Destination

Buncombe County Recreation Services is expanding and improving the Buncombe County Sports Park (BCSP) and the Bob Lewis Ballpark and creating the Enka Heritage Trail to provide unique infrastructure that allows for ease of access between the two parks and nearby amenities. Improvements include the addition of lights on soccer and softball fields to allow for nighttime play, adding turf to three soccer fields (two existing and one new), creation of a recreation-quality multi-purpose community field, development of a dog park, increased parking, construction of a picnic pavilion with restrooms and Wi-Fi, and establishment of several fitness and recreation courses. The project also aims for connectivity between the Bob Lewis Ballpark and BCSP while adding a major spoke of the Buncombe County Greenway system.  The Enka Heritage District includes construction of an ADA-compliant bridge over Hominy Creek and two miles of paved interpretive trail/greenway that connects to Sand Hill Road and allows for neighborhood connectivity while also featuring unique aspects of the area including an area of river cane, of historical importance to the Cherokee.

TPDF Grant Funding: $6 million


LEAF Global Arts Center

LEAF plans to open the LEAF Global Arts Center in the historic Del Cardo building on Eagle Street where guests can enjoy educational experiences rooted in music, art, community and culture. The 3,300 sq. ft. center will provide a variety of experiences separated into a variety of zones throughout the Center that highlight music, art and culture from around the world.  A mini-theater and international global immersion room will use virtual reality and the global sound underground area will encourage experimentation with unique musical instruments from around the world. A small stage for performances, recording stations and interactive artist workstations are also featured in the center.

TPDF Grant Funding: $705,000


African-American Heritage and Cultural District and Interactive Museum

This project by the River Front Development Group celebrates the community’s African American heritage and consists of two distinct components.  Development of an African-American Heritage and Cultural District will connect downtown Asheville to historically African-American neighborhoods. The project also develops an interactive museum at Stephens-Lee Recreation Center (in partnership with the Asheville Art Museum and the Preservation Society) which will highlight and recognizes the history and contributions of the community’s African-American population. BCTDA approved TPDF funds for the museum component. The District signage and interpretive marketers will be funded through the BCTDA Wayfinding Program and Explore Asheville staff will work directly with a River Front Development Group advisory group on content development for an African-American heritage trail and signage as well as incorporating it into a mobile-responsive project-branded micro-site.

TPDF Grant Funding: $100,000


YMI Cultural Center Improvements

The YMI Cultural Center in collaboration with Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC) will undertake extensive upgrades to the historic facility that expands opportunities for further events and exhibits.  Additional work will create updates to gallery space, the auditorium and develop a state-of-the-art media system.

TPDF Grant Funding: $800,000


Center for Craft, Creativity & Design – National Craft Innovation Hub

The National Craft Innovation Hub is an expansion of the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design’s historic 1912 structure, located at 67 Broadway Street. The new space will create an additional 7,000 square feet that will expand the first-floor gallery as well as add an auxiliary gallery, a lecture space, classrooms and workshops, a co-working space and lounge area. Also included is a new artist-designed parklet at the entry. This project will enhance Asheville’s downtown by developing a cultural gateway, connecting cultural assets along the Broadway-Pack Square-Biltmore corridor.

TPDF Grant Funding: $975.000


North Carolina Arboretum Garden Lighting and Parking Enhancements

The North Carolina Arboretum Society will add decorative lighting in the gardens and key facilities that creates evening experiences and events throughout the year. Additional parking and landscaping is also included in this project to expand capacity for both daytime and evening attendance.

TPDF Grant Funding: $905,000