Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

Here’s more detail on the individual projects that have submitted requests for funding through the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s tourism development project fund. Each year, the Buncombe TDA takes a portion of the hotel tax money it collects and hands out grants to projects aimed at increasing tourism in the county and putting “heads in beds.”

This year, the requests come as a proposal to increase the Buncombe County hotel room tax from 4 percent to 6 percent. Some residents also want to see a portion of the county hotel room tax set aside for projects that would address the impacts of tourism on the community.

The details under each project are my notes/summaries taken from the individual applications. Which one/ones would you fund?

-ABSCI: The Collider: $350,000

The Collider is designed to be Asheville’s world-class conference center in the heart of downtown. Located in the Wells Fargo building in downtown Asheville. Two components: The Collider Theatre and Collider CoWorking. Redundant 10G fiber optic broadband capacity with direct access to key federal resources gives the Collider the ability to move vast amounts of data for virtual conferencing, presentations and workshops. The Collider has more than 3,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

-ABYSA: JBL Soccer complex improvements: $1.1 million

The proposed project is the replacement of artificial turf at the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex in Buncombe County.

-Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity: Volunteer Tourism Builds Affordable Housing: $75,000

Asheville Habitat requests $75,000 for its Volunteer Tourism program, which brought in more than 400 people from out of town to 2014. The money would go toward building more Habitat green-built homes for local residents.

-Asheville Masonic Temple: renovation: $500,000

The goal is to turn the architectural gem of a 100-year-old Masonic Temple into a year-round venue hosting weddings, corporate and nonprofit events, as well as music and theater performances. It can host up to 400 people at a time and offers ceremony and reception space.

-Blue Ridge Motorcyling Magazine: motorcycle welcome center: $500,000

The center will welcome motorcycle enthusiasts, offer visitor resources, such as maps and directions and will house the offices of Blue Ridge Motorcycling Magazine, a quarterly magazine targeting affluent riders.

-Brother Wolf Animal Sanctuary Learning Center: $500,000

Brother Wolf has acquired 82.5 acre farm in Leicester and is establishing a new Brother Wolf Animal Sanctuary. It will provide specialized care for orphaned dogs and cats needing long-term rehabilitation. It will be the largest facility of its kind in the Eastern U.S. and will attract visitors from around the U.S. The center will have separate classrooms and a 250-person meeting hall and commercial kitchen.

-Catman2 Inc: The American Museum of the House Cat: $350,000

Harold Sims in Cullowhee opened Catman2 Inc. in Cullowhee in 2002. It is the largest cat-only shelter in North Carolina. While there are several examples of cat museums across the U.S., Sims believes Asheville would be a prime location for another to honor the house cat, America’s most popular pet.

-Center for Craft, Creativity and Design: conference facility: $940,000

The core component would be a 200-person nontraditional conference facility and event center that will have state-of-the-art AV technology and fiber internet connectivity, as well as 3,300 square feet of general session space, 1,130 square feet of banquet/exhibition space and a 1,000 square foot rooftop terrace, as well as 1,200 square feet of reception/flex space.

-City of Asheville: River to Ridge riverfront destination development project $2.27 million

The vision is to create an outdoor recreation experience that connects from the Beaucatcher Overlook Park to the River Arts District and beyond. Asheville’s velodrome would be resurfaced under this project. River to Ridge greenway trail connection; French Broad River Greenway Network; velodrome rebuild; crosswalk and river access across Amboy Road at Carrier Park, as well as construction of a river access point.

-Colburn Earth Science Museum: Moving Science Education Into The Spotlight: $400,000

Colburn is moving into a new location on Patton Avenue and is seeking the money to continue renovation work.

-Friends of the WNC Nature Center: Front entrance: $313,000

The WNC Nature Center wants to relocate its front entrance to the level of what is currently parking area C. The move will increase safety and create a separate entrance for prepaid groups as well as new bus parking. The money would also go toward anew building with ticket sales, as well as renovations to itscurrent barn to provide new restrooms and exhibit space.

-Hickory Nut Gap Farm: Asheville’s Farm to Table Destination: Hickory Nut Gap Farm: $120,000

The project includes the rehabilitation of an existing big barn and concession area. Hickory Nut Gap wants to remodel for guests. The farm serves 40 local restaurant accounts and is growing at a 15 percent annual clip. It also hosts tour groups and events and wants to better serve those clients.

Image link for Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

-Looking Glass Creamery: Urban Creamery Project: $331,846

Looking Glass Creamery is maxed out at its current location and wants the money to relocate to the Highland Brewing complex in East Asheville and expand production.

-Riverglass: Riverglass Public Glass Studio & School: $200,000 grant and $100,000 loan

The nonprofit Riverglass aims to create a new state-of-the-art public glass studio and school to be located in warehouses just to the north of the River Arts District. Riverglass would be an anchor tenant in the arts-oriented warehouse conversion project. It would offer continuous free demonstrations, classes and a shop.

-Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy: Community Food and Farm Visitor Hub: $30,000

SAHC was gifted a 103-acre farm in Alexander in 2010. There’s an existing community farm and entrepreneurial center there. This project would renovate an existing building into and educational and value-aded processing facility and meeting space for 150 people. There project would include an outdoor pavilion.

-YMCA of WNC: YMCA Multipurpose Community Fields: $370,000

Multipurpose community fields

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

You Might also Like


  1. carneyvor June 16, 2015

    Is the cat museum for real?

  2. Kipper June 12, 2015

    I for one would love to see the Masonic Temple turned into a center for events, conferences, and receptions. It’s fantastically beautiful and centrally located downtown.

    I’m sure it needs updating, its elevator must be from the early 20th century, but wow… the potential is there for something really special

    1. Adam Arthur June 12, 2015

      As long as they still have room for local theatre as well. There’s little space to be had for all the companies that exist.

    2. Big Al June 12, 2015

      I saw the Noel Coward’s “Separate Lives” and the “Temple of the Muse: Reclaiming Sacred Fire” and found the Temple to be an excellent venue for both. I look forward to more and hope the Temple gets its’ grant.

      1. The Real World June 12, 2015

        Yes, the Masonic Temple is a fantastic building and definitely in need of updating. It would make a really good event space and theater.

        Regarding the motorcycle thing….Golden, Colorado (suburb of Denver)decided to cater to that crowd some years ago and they have now almost taken over the town. Not in a good way. The noise issue alone has been a BIG detractor.

        I’m a nut for parks and greenways so am always interested in those types of proposals.

        The Collider sounded intriguing.

  3. Scott Duncan June 11, 2015

    I so admire Habitat, and their modest $75K request. Hope AVL/ BC TDA will recognize that drawing tourists to town w/ hands-on, helping-others projects like Habitat is a win-win-win proposition. How many altruistic visitors can one town manage? Let’s find out.
    Besides H for H in first place, my listing is identical to Jan Schochet’s (thanks JS), but adding in the also-very-modest request for $30K for So. App. Highlands Conservancy. Spreading small farm/ home/ neighborhood food-growing concepts & capabilities is Smart, with a capital “S”.

  4. Matt June 11, 2015

    Not that you-tube cat videos aren’t important. How about a list of Asheville commercials the TDA has published over the years, instead of paying firefighters?

  5. Matt June 11, 2015

    The TDA should fund each and every single one of these projects, and then put the remaining $8mil projected (16mil total) toward infrastructure and public servant wages (fire, police) like other more equitiable and modern places do, to help pay for the tourist burden and demand on infrastructure and public servants, and to keep Asheville up to date with a fighting chance of not becoming Aspen in 5 years.

    Somebody tell Apodaca, I hear he owns this town.

  6. Tim Peck June 11, 2015

    Has anyone in this crowd actually helped to fund any of these crowdfunding project?

  7. Fabulous June 10, 2015

    River to Ridge redevelopment!!!

    F No to motorcycle thing. That would be the worst!

  8. AVL-fan June 10, 2015

    This ought to be good since everyone has their favorites…..
    This is a tourism tax and therefore criteria to be met should be IMO:

    Is the project good for both residents and tourists? The tax comes from tourists so they should potentially benefit from the project.
    Does it create or enhance something that is special to the city/county? The project need not be unique but it should be distinctive.
    Can it be appreciated, directly or indirectly, by the greatest number of residents? One need not use the project to gain something of value from its presence.

  9. AVL LVR June 10, 2015

    NOT a motorcycle welcome center. All gas motorcycles should be banned from the Blue Ridge Parkway. They pollute more than cars and are extremely noisy. Why someone would want to ride one of those death traps is beyond me.

    I’d give money to tear down the Asheville Masonic Temple.

    I would fund the following:
    1. City of Asheville: River to Ridge riverfront destination development project
    2. Friends of the WNC Nature Center: Front entrance
    3. Looking Glass Creamery: Urban Creamery Project
    4. Colburn Earth Science Museum: Moving Science Education Into The Spotlight
    5. Hickory Nut Gap Farm: Asheville’s Farm to Table Destination: Hickory Nut Gap Farm

    Tourists will visit to ride greenways and visit museums and sample/educate where food is made. The only reason I went to W Jefferson, NC growing up was to visit the Ashe County Cheese. I’ve long said we need something comparable here. We also need a large pick-your-own blueberry/berry farm comparable to Skytop Orchard (but for berries and better looking buildings) that is close to Asheville. It needs a view, animals/lamas, gift shop/cafe; it could host weddings. $$ towards this will benefit locals and visitors.

    1. hauntedheadnc June 10, 2015

      Why would you give money to tear down the masonic temple?

      1. AVL LVR June 10, 2015

        It’s creepy. Who knows what horrors happened there. I suppose it could be a haunted tour.

        1. hauntedheadnc June 10, 2015

          If you love AVL half as much as you say you do, you’d know that pretty much any building more than a decade old has a reason to be called creepy. Suicides at the Battery Park Apartments, Jackson Building, and City Building, prostitutes being fished in pieces out of the river, and body parts being scattered on the parkway, a slave market in Pack Square… Get rid of all the “creepy” places in Asheville and there would be no Asheville.

        2. Adam Arthur June 10, 2015

          It is beautiful inside and deserves its place downtown. Would you rather see more banal architecture in the form of overpriced condos?

          1. AVL LVR June 10, 2015

            Condos would be good. I would implement a strict downtown architectural standards ordinance i.e.. Wood trim, timbers, logs, and clay brick (dark red brick is better), complexity requirements, Four-sided design See the Los Alamos Architectural Standards Ordinance

            I would extend these standards citywide. NO Tan Basic Retaining Wall Blocks like you see below Chipotle. It should look a lot better than that.

          2. NFB June 10, 2015

            Yes, because goodness the only thing we need more than condos in downtown Asheville is another hotel.

          3. carneyvor June 16, 2015

            I’m with you! The Masonic temple is beautiful. Asheville is popular because we were so poor and boarded up for so long. We didn’t go through that gentrification in the 50s-80s, so we have these beautiful old buildings…(save for a few, ahem BB&T) that people come far and wide to admire. Let’s keep them there and repurpose them, the bones are good, it’s a masonic temple for the love of God!

    2. Sean June 10, 2015

      True story: A buddy and I were pretty much lost after we took what we thought was a trail around the summit of Rhinehart Knob south of Asheville on the Parkway. I stopped and listened for a good while, trying to hear the traffic noise from the road, which I knew was not that far away. Several motorcycles came through, and led us straight to the road.

      So, in a way, loud motorcycles on the Parkway saved my ass once.

  10. Jan Schochet June 10, 2015

    1. Masonic Temple
    2. Colburn
    3. Cat museum (pretty unique)
    4. Brother Wolf
    5. Riverglass
    6. Habitat

    Some of the other projects have a large membership/user base that should be tapped–YMCA, soccer fields (soccer does bring heads in beds for tons of youth championships but they’ve gotten lots of money previously. In fact one soccer foils at least was initially constructed with tourist tax money). These orgs have a base to tap–hold fundraising campaign, add $X per head to playoff/attendance costs.

    Other projects listed here are too far out to justify saying they’re putting heads in beds locally (I do have a soft spot for Brother Wolf so I included it in my list).

    Many good projects.

    1. Jan Schochet June 10, 2015

      I meant “fields” not “foils”–auto-check on phone makes weird corrections.

  11. Roger Hartley June 10, 2015

    These funds from the tax should be going to local govts like in other cities around the nation. If not to local govts then the small percentage amount of grant money (vast majority helps them advertise) should not go to for profit ventures like the Collider, Creamery or others. At least to the Ashevile city and Buncombe County projects that would accomplish community goals and free money for other city and county needs.

  12. Curious June 10, 2015

    When will the TDA be moving to a requirement that all the projects it funds are from non-profit organizations? Are Looking Glass Creamery and Hickory Nut Gap Farm projects non-profit?

    1. Jan Schochet June 10, 2015


    2. ashevillain June 11, 2015

      Why only non-profits? Most of them are funded better than comparably sized for-profit enterprises.

      I wish there was another term for a “non-profit” entity. All of the ones I’ve worked with definitely don’t have a “non-profit” mindset. They aim to make a profit just like any other business…the main difference between non-profit and for-profit entities is that there are restrictions on dividend payouts for non-profit stakeholders. In many cases, to make up for these restrictions, salaries are higher in non-profit organizations.

      Non-profit as a descriptor is misleading and definitely does not mean that these organizations eschew profit.

      ^This is not to disparage the work that they do. Much of it is extremely important. It’s just a misleading term.

    3. CraveRecords June 11, 2015

      The occupancy tax increase bill includes language barring funds from going to for-profit businesses, but it’s not currently restricted.

      1. Curious June 12, 2015

        Thank you for Crave Records for clarification. Even if the new law hasn’t gone into effect, it might behoove current projects to follow the spirit of the law by limiting projects to not-for-profit groups. For-profit groups, like Looking Glass Creamery and Hickory Nut Gap Farm, which want to expand their business operations, should take out bank commercial loans, as other businesses do. Puzzling that they are even asking for funds this way. From the Hickory Nut Gap Farm website: “Jamie [Ager] and Amy have grown their operation on both the production and sales front over the past 15 years and appreciate the lifestyle that they have been able to offer as opportunity to raise their three children, Cyrus, Nolin, and Levi Ager.” Isn’t Jamie Ager the son of one of our representatives, John Ager?

        1. AVL LVR June 12, 2015

          I would fund these because they raise our profile as a foodie city, attract tourists (just as Ashe County Cheese does), and encourages the industry to develop. It’s the same as all the incentives we gave to the beer industry except they make healthy food and it accommodates the whole family.

          1. Big Al June 12, 2015

            I was going to “ditto” the comment about “non-profits” being more deserving until you brought up the way Asheville disgustingly fawns all over the breweries, so yeah, give the farm and creamery some love!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Stories