ASHEVILLE – The Asheville Municipal Golf Course, Swannanoa Greenway and the WNC Nature Center are among four local institutions that could see significant capital funding following the city’s $ 7.8 million grant request to the Buncombe County Tourism Authority.
With about $ 15 million dedicated to major tourism projects in Buncombe County through the TDA’s Tourism Product Development Fund, the city is seeking the funding to meet repair, renovation and construction needs for four area projects.
It’s what City Manager Debra Campbell called “going back to basics” at the May 24 City Council meeting.
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Some much-needed love for a historic Asheville golf course, the first phase of a long-awaited greenway, a new gateway to a sprawling 42-acre zoo, and the transformation of Coxe Avenue into a green street – these are existing infrastructure asks Campbell said the city needs to maintain.
“There is a ton of need in our community,” Campbell said. “Infrastructure is one of them. We really, really got to get back to the basics of maintaining our assets, the ones that we have now.”
Asheville City Council unanimously authorized Campbell to apply for the TPDF funding. Each project requires one-for-one matching funds from the city in order to qualify.
Other council action:
TPDF funds are among the monies levied from the county’s occupancy tax and are dedicated to “provide financial assistance for major tourism projects in order to significantly increase patronage of lodging facilities in Buncombe County.”
Funding is limited to capital investments only, and each project must demonstrate that it will create “substantial new overnight lodging,” said Stephanie Monson Dahl, with planning and urban design.
After a lengthy application process that kickstarts in June, award announcements will take place in October.
The following four projects have been identified as candidates for this year’s funding request, listed in priority order:
- Asheville Municipal Golf Course Improvements.
- Swannanoa Greenway Phase 1.
- WNC Nature Center Gateway to the Southern Appalachians Enhancement.
- Coxe Avenue Green Street.
1. Municipal Golf Course
- TPDF grant request: $ 1 million.
- City of Asheville funding: $ 1 million.
- Total estimated project cost: $ 2-4 million.
The first public golf course in North Carolina, and the first to be integrated in the Southeast, the Asheville Municipal Golf Course is the last remaining “affordable” public fee course in Asheville, said Chris Corl, the city’s director of Community and Regional Entertainment Facilities .
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The 18-hole golf course was designed by Hall of Fame golf architect Donald Ross and opened for play in 1927.
Though much-loved and home to the longest running Black-owned and operated professional tournament in the country, it’s fallen into significant disrepair, which one Citizen Times reader called “the very worst and most deplorable condition ever.”
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With weeds and bare spots plaguing much of the fairway, and significant stormwater repairs needed, Corl said in a public survey with about 900 respondents, 68% said the course is in “terrible or poor condition.”
The requested funding would cover stormwater infrastructure, water collection, tee box upgrades, and green and sand trap improvements.
It would also help to restore the original course design and include historic and educational markers.
Mayor Esther Manheimer detailed some of the course’s history, which used to be subsidized by the city, and noted that the city recently put out a request for qualifications for a new company to manage day-to-day operations, which closed March 22.
“This is a very important evolution in rehabbing and repairing the golf course,” Manheimer said. She said the deed-restricted land can only be used as a golf course.
“This is kind of our gem that we’re stuck with,” she said, “and it has a lot of important history and a lot of people do like to use this amenity in our community.”
According to the city, the course averages 41,600 starts annually.
2. Swannanoa Greenway Phase 1
- TPDF grant request: $ 2.3 million.
- City of Asheville funding: $ 3.8 million in GO Bond funds.
- Total estimated project cost: $ 6.1 million.
Anticipated to be shovel ready by October, Corl said the project is the first phase of a 7.5-mile greenway that will connect with the Wilma Dykeman (RADTIP) greenway in the River Arts District.
If awarded, the TDA funds will allow the city to complete the whole project on
one timeline, rather than breaking it into two projects.
This section of greenway would connect the intersections of Glendale Avenue and
Thompson Street to the existing greenway at Bleachery Road.
3. Western North Carolina Nature Center Gateway to the Southern Appalachians Enhancement
- TPDF grant request: $ 567,000.
- Friends of the WNC Nature Center: Committed $ 150,000.
- City of Asheville funding: $ 480,000.
- Total estimated project cost: $ 1.1 million.
Managed by the city of Asheville, the WNC Nature Center is seeking funding for continued renewal of the facility, including enhancements to its entryway, which would create a seasonal live butterfly exhibit, an open guest plaza and reimagine the domestic animal space.
The nature center applied for a TPDF grant in 2015, as well, and used the funds to create a new front entrance and relocated gift shop in 2018, which triggered an immediate 31% bump in attendance.
Corl said they anticipate additional renovations could grow attendance by 9% in the first three years and extend the length of stay for visitors by one-and-a-half to two hours.
4. Coxe Avenue Green Street
- TPDF grant request: $ 3 million.
- City of Asheville funding: $ 2.3 million.
- NCDOT grant: $ 9.4 million.
- Total estimated project cost: $ 14.8 million.
Included in the city’s South Slope Vision plan, a draft of which was released in March, is the full infrastructure reconstruction of Coxe Avenue from Patton Avenue in the heart of downtown to Southside Avenue, about 0.6 miles.
It intends to transform Coxe Avenue into a complete street, with bike / pedestrian and green infrastructure, stormwater improvements, increased tree canopy and areas to support arts and commerce with more expressions of the corridor’s history and culture, said Dahl.
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Envisioned as a Main Street for thSouth Slope, Dahl said it’s “quite a complex project,” one that works to address many community concerns.
Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. News Tips? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or message on Twitter at @slhonosky.