Buncombe County tourism officials on Wednesday announced that they were awarding $700,000 to the city of Asheville for the construction of a portion of the French Broad River Greenway. You can see the press release below to read the details.
Two things to note about this press release. The first is that Asheville greenways are getting more and more attention – and more much-needed funding. On Tuesday, two nonprofits – the Asheville Parks and Greenway Foundation and Friends of Connect Buncombe – gave the city $37,000 for a feasibility study addressing an East Asheville greenway connection. Local breweries have become a key fundraiser for greenways, with the foundation folks pointing out that Highland and Catawba breweries were instrumental in helping collect cash.
Also, the press release notes that 25 percent of total occupancy tax collections in 2015 went directly to city of Asheville projects. That directly addresses criticism the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority faces last year from some city officials and city residents, who wanted a part of last year’s hotel room tax increase devoted specifically to city of Asheville infrastructure projects.
Here’s the full press release:
TOURISM PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT FUNDS AWARDED TO FRENCH BROAD GREENWAY
~ 25 percent of total occupancy tax collections for 2015 go directly to City of Asheville projects ~
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (February 24, 2016) —The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) approved $700,000 in funding today for use by the City of Asheville for construction of a 1.5 mile section of the French Broad River Greenway, the final piece of a $3.1 million award of occupancy taxes for City-owned projects in the 2015-16 Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) cycle. Collectively, City-owned projects received 25 percent of the total occupancy tax revenue for the 2015 calendar year ($3.1 of the total $12.3 revenues).
The City of Asheville funding application states this section of the French Broad River Greenway is an essential link to connect the visitor facilities at New Belgium Brewery as well as a new City parking area to further recreation points in Asheville.
The award represents the first deployment by the TPDF of a new future funding mechanism which allows BCTDA to consider and approve the TPDF committee’s recommendation when funds have accumulated. The TPDF recommended this action to BCTDA in the fall, suggesting the award be made once funding was available and prior to the Greenway’s initial May 2016 construction date.
The approval also marks the last piece of the TPDF process that began last fall when BCTDA approved funding for six projects, including $2,413,000 for improvements and development to city-owned facilities and projects including the JBL Soccer Complex, the Western North Carolina Nature Center, and the River to Ridge project that includes the Beaucatcher Greenway and river access and a crosswalk at Amboy Park. Grants were also provided to The Collider ($150,000 for the downtown state-of-the-art business and conference facility), the Asheville Museum of Science formerly known as the Colburn Earth Science Museum ($400,000 for relocation and expansion), and Riverglass Public Glass Studio & School ($200,000 for a new glass studio and school).
As required by the legislation that stipulates how the funds are used, the grants assist with construction of projects that are expected to attract overnight visitors and generate spending at local businesses, jobs and tax revenue. The projects are also community assets that will be enjoyed by Buncombe County citizens.
Each year, Buncombe County welcomes 3.3 million overnight guests, providing a customer base that assists in the sustainability of businesses in the community and contributes to tax revenues. Annually, tourism generates a $2.6 billion economic impact to the region.