Ashley Greenstein
(828) 318-8960


First Funding Cycle for the LIFT Fund, Established Through 2022 Legislative Changes

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 24, 2024) — The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) approved nearly $10 million of new investments in a dozen tourism-related capital projects to benefit visitors and residents. The Legacy Investment from Tourism (LIFT) Fund provides financial investment through grants, loan guarantees, or pledges of debt service to tourism-related capital projects that will increase patronage of lodging facilities and benefit the community at large in Buncombe County.

“The Legacy Investment from Tourism Fund expands our ability to invest in transformative community projects and allows for wider uses of the Fund to collaborate with non-profit and municipal partners," said President & CEO of BCTDA and Explore Asheville Vic Isley. "We're excited to partner with Buncombe County on the Ferry Road affordable housing project in this inaugural cycle. By investing $4 million directly into the recreational and conservational components including greenways and trails, we are able to support this important project for our community through amenities that will be available by 2026."

  Applicant   Project   Investment
Buncombe County Ferry Road Community: Affordable Housing, Conservation, and Public Recreation


City of Asheville Coxe Avenue Complete Street


City of Asheville Arena Capital Maintenance


City of Asheville Aston Park Tennis Center Court Rebuild Design


Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Blue Ridge Parkway: Improving Visitor Experiences at Craggy Gardens Year-Round


Hood Huggers Foundation Blue Note Junction - Phase 1 Construction


RiverLink Gateway Park: Resurrecting a public park on Riverside Drive


Asheville Museum of Science Growing Together - Museum Repair and Expansion Plan


Media Arts Project (MAP)

Supernova Immersive Experience Project Design


University Botanical Gardens at Asheville, Inc. Building on Our Legacy: Uplifting BGA Facilities to Better Serve Tourists and Residents


Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League (DBA Swannanoa Valley Gallery and Studios) Expanding Visitors and Artists Experiences in Downtown Black Mountain (Red House Gallery and Studios)


Black Wall Street AVL  Black Wall Street AVL Visitor Experience Upgrade




“The Ferry Road project is meant to be a model for sustainable development,” said Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman. “It will include hundreds of new affordable homes and apartments for working families and senior citizens. Ferry Road also includes the creation of a beautiful new public park with miles of trails on the banks of the French Broad River that will be enjoyed by our whole community for generations to come. We appreciate the Tourism Development Authority stepping up to be significant partner with Buncombe County on this transformative project.”

Following legislative guidelines, LIFT Committee members evaluated all projects submitted through the competitive grant application process and provided recommendations to the board. After review, the BCTDA Board of Directors voted to invest nearly $10 million in 12 tourism-related capital projects. Seventy-seven percent of available funds were committed to City or County owned projects.

“We are excited to continue to partner with the Tourism Development Authority on projects and amenities that make Asheville a vibrant and livable community for residents and visitors,” said Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer.

These community investments align closely with LIFT Fund goals and Explore Asheville’s strategic imperatives. The projects build on earlier investments and aim to enhance Buncombe County’s competitiveness for sporting and entertainment events, disperse visitors countywide, encourage off-peak travel, welcome diverse audiences, conserve natural resources, spotlight our creative spirit, and expand family-friendly activities for residents.

“We’re deeply grateful for the support of Buncombe Tourism Development Authority via the LIFT Fund,” said Co-Founder of Hood Huggers International Safi Martin. “By investing in the Blue Note Junction, you’re investing in one of Asheville’s oldest African American neighborhoods—paving the way for a vibrant destination that not only enriches the immediate neighborhood, but the surrounding region. Our goal is to use this investment to create a beneficial ripple effect—supporting entrepreneurs, expanding the arts, preserving history, and providing affordable housing.”

The inaugural LIFT Fund investment will support the maintenance and design of tourism-related capital projects, project administration, enhancement of natural resources, and expansion of necessary infrastructure.

"We are thrilled and very grateful for Craggy Gardens to be selected for the first round of LIFT Fund grants,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Ward. “It's an iconic Buncombe County destination that is loved by both visitors and locals. This grant sets the stage for a much brighter, more accessible, and more sustainable future for Craggy Gardens."



Buncombe County | Ferry Road Community: Affordable Housing, Conservation, and Public Recreation

The Ferry Road project is a sustainable mixed-use development that will offer affordable housing, conservation, and public recreational access along the French Broad River. The 137-acre property, owned by Buncombe County, will preserve more than 70 acres of land while providing 645 housing units, community services, and approximately four miles of public greenways with trails and public parking. The project will connect important locations in the area, such as Bent Creek River Park (the County’s most visited park), The Arboretum, and Biltmore Park West.

The Authority is investing in the public recreation and conservation components of the Ferry Road Project, which include approximately four miles of greenway and trails, public parking access, wetland access, and signage.

City of Asheville | Coxe Avenue Complete Street

The Coxe Avenue Complete Street project aims to improve more than half a mile of urban streetscape on Coxe Avenue between Patton Avenue and Southside. This project will create a more welcoming pedestrian-and-bike-friendly connection between downtown, the Southside neighborhood, and other destinations along the corridor. The improvements will enhance the experience of both locals and visitors, positioning Coxe Avenue as a model for walkable, bikeable, and inviting streetscapes that can be replicated throughout Asheville.

City of Asheville | Arena Capital Maintenance

The City of Asheville's Arena project consists of three significant capital maintenance projects throughout the facility, including the replacement of a service elevator, HVAC improvements, and loading dock repairs. These projects retain important annual events and encourage growth in the types of concerts and special events that have the most significant economic impact on the community.

City of Asheville | Aston Park Tennis Center Court Rebuild Design

Aston Park Tennis Center, a City-owned facility with 12 clay courts, hosts over 14,000 athletes and spectators annually. The center has hosted the Asheville Open Tennis Championships for the past 91 years. However, the tournament was recently demoted from a Level 2 to a Level 3 event due to the poor condition of the facilities. To regain its Level 2 status, the City has requested support for the design and cost estimation for rebuilding all 12 courts at the center.

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation | Blue Ridge Parkway: Improving Visitor Experiences at Craggy Gardens Year-Round 

Craggy Gardens attracts a wide variety of visitors, ranging in age, interests, and abilities. It ranks as one of the most popular locations in America's most visited national park unit. The Blue Ridge Parkway does not charge an entrance fee—which makes the Parkway more accessible to people with limited economic means—but also leaves the Parkway with fewer resources to manage its visitation. In response to existing challenges with aging facilities, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation requested support for permanent, accessible year-round restroom facilities, trailhead and wayfinding improvements, and the planning and design of Visitor Center and picnic area renovations.

Hood Huggers Foundation | Blue Note Junction - Phase I Construction

Hood Huggers Foundation and Asheville Creative Arts are partnering to create Blue Note Junction, a one-of-a-kind health and business incubator within one of Asheville’s oldest African American communities. The project is located less than a block from Haywood Road in the heart of walkable West Asheville; it will serve as a bridge between the historical Burton Street neighborhood and the busy Haywood Road Corridor. The Blue Note Junction project plans to celebrate African American artists, writers, and musicians in the Appalachian region, create job opportunities, support local businesses, and serve as a hub for community events. Hood Huggers Foundation requested support for the project’s Phase I construction, including an outdoor event venue, an open-air market featuring BIPOC makers and growers, accessible gardens, and a greenhouse.

RiverLink | Gateway Park – Resurrecting a Public Park on Riverside Drive

Gateway Park is a 1.3-acre public park in Asheville, located between the River Arts District and Woodfin on the French Broad River. Designed for bike and pedestrian users, it will feature meandering pathways, native plantings, arched gateways, and a carousel-inspired pavilion.  Gateway Park will be the only public greenspace within the 2.5-mile corridor between the River Arts District (RAD) and Woodfin's Silver-Line Park.

Asheville Museum of Science | Growing Together – Museum Repair and Expansion Plan

AMOS currently serves 50,000 people annually in a 6,000-square-foot downtown location. Weekend attendance often reaches capacity, leading to the turning away of guests. Wells Fargo's adjacent 10,000-square-foot location closed Spring of 2024, giving AMOS first right of refusal to expand. AMOS requested support with a feasibility study and the design of additional space, along with repair and maintenance of existing exhibits and safety features.

Media Arts Project (MAP) | Supernova Immersive Experience Project Design

The Supernova Immersive Experience project plans to be a 26,000-square-foot labyrinth adventure located at 108 Monticello Road in Weaverville. The experience will feature multi-sensory rooms that delve into the imaginations of world-class artists and local creatives, with each room offering a real-life interactive art experience. Visitors of all ages will be encouraged to explore hidden passages, secret places, and even playground slides to experience art in a new and exciting way. MAP requested support for the design and engineering plans of the Supernova project, including architectural design of the space and the design of permanent immersive experiences.

University Botanical Garden at Asheville, Inc. | Building on Our Legacy – Uplifting BGA Facilities to Better Service Tourists and Residents

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville (BGA) seeks to increase the functionality and attractiveness of the gardens as a destination and event venue, boost its appeal to native plant enthusiasts, address safety issues, and enhance ADA compliance. The renovations and improvements will allow the BGA to offer a unique venue with a relaxed, informal atmosphere focused on the natural beauty of the area. BGA requested support with renovation of the Visitor Center and the garden entrance and gazebo.

Swannanoa Valley Art League (DBA Swannanoa Valley Gallery and Studios) | Expanding Visitors and Artists Experiences in Downtown Black Mountain (Red House Gallery and Studios)

The Swannanoa Valley Art League (SVAL) is a community-based organization established in 1967 to showcase the work of local artists and provide educational opportunities. SVAL's Red House Gallery & Studios relocated to 101 Cherry Street in Black Mountain in late 2023. The new location improvements include a 4,500-square-foot building with a gallery, artist studios, and an education room. The gallery will have a bimonthly exhibit, showcasing 23 artists and their art. SVAL requested support for the renovation of 101 Cherry Street, including façade improvements and an update to the HVAC system.

Black Wall Street AVL | Black Wall Street AVL Visitor Experience Upgrade

Black Wall Street AVL (BWS AVL) is a Black business incubator with a mission to help people turn their ideas into reality and build a supportive community for local Black entrepreneurs. BWS AVL has activated 8 River Arts Place as an event venue; however, limitations with the facility’s amenities hinder the organization’s ability to rent the space during warmer months or inclement weather. BWS AVL requested support to install an air-conditioning system and patio awnings to improve the overall experience of event attendees.



About the LIFT Fund

In 2022, an amendment to HB1057 was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly to establish the Legacy Investment from Tourism (LIFT) Fund. This fund enables the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) to invest in more uses than what is allowed through Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF), including design, project administration, restoration or rehabilitation, capital maintenance, expansion of necessary infrastructure, and enhancement of natural resources. Funding comes solely from the occupancy tax paid by visitors who stay overnight in commercial lodging facilities such as hotels, vacation rentals, or bed and breakfasts. One-third of the occupancy tax collected is split evenly between TPDF and the LIFT Fund. The inaugural LIFT Fund cycle builds upon previous TPDF investments, totaling nearly $96 million in 51 community projects across Buncombe County.

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