Asheville City Council is set to fully fund the construction of a new red panda exhibit and breeding facility at the WNC Nature Center.

Two budget amendments – one for $154,200 for design-build services from B. Allen Construction and the other for $184,820 for construction – are on City Council’s consent agenda during its Tuesday meeting. The nonprofit Friends of the Nature Center group has pledged to donate the $154,200 to cover the costs associated with construction, as well as provide $5,000 a year for 10 years to support the operation and maintenance of the exhibit.

The new exhibit will be placed next to a free-standing breeding building.

The WNC Nature Center wants to have the red panda exhibit and breeding facility open by October 2018. The addition of red pandas, as well as a number of other animal exhibits, is part of the Nature Center’s 2020 Vision plan for growth.

Red pandas are thought to be native to the Southern Appalachian mountains. The WNC Nature Center, which sees more than 100,000 visitors a year, with attendance growing each year, and is subsidized in part with taxpayer money. It is home to about 60 species and features a restaurant, a gift shop and an historic barn.

The WNC Nature Center is finishing up improvements to its entrance that will allow the center to make other improvements, including the addition of parking and the development of a permanent butterfly exhibit.

The WNC Nature Center, which sees more than 100,000 visitors a year, with attendance growing each year, and is subsidized in part with taxpayer money. It is home to about 60 species and features a restaurant, a gift shop and an historic barn.

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