December 15, 2011
The UNC Asheville Foundation and TD Bank have signed a contract for the sale of land adjacent to the university that was formerly owned by the Health Adventure. The 8.9-acre property is located at the intersection of Broadway and Catawba streets.
The Health Adventure, a children's science museum, had planned to build a $25 million museum on the Broadway property. The organization broke ground for the project in 2008, but was unable to complete it and filed for bankruptcy in March 2011. TD Bank bought the property in a foreclosure auction in October.
The UNC Asheville Foundation will make the purchase. No state funds or student fees will be used. It is common practice for a university foundation to purchase land on behalf of the university and later transfer the land to the university. Details of the combined sale/gift will not be disclosed until it is finalized.
"This combined gift/sale helps assure a bright future for UNC Asheville, and we are grateful to TD Bank for creating this opportunity and providing a great example of how to be community-minded," said UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder.
"It is exceedingly rare for a large parcel of land adjacent to campus to come on the market," said Chuck Wood, UNC Asheville Foundation chair. "The UNC Asheville Foundation is very pleased to be able to secure the property for the university."
UNC Asheville does not have immediate plans to develop the land, but the size and location present a range of opportunities. When the sale is finalized, the use of the property will be determined through UNC Asheville's ongoing campus master planning process, and in consultation with the City of Asheville and the Montford neighborhood, said John Pierce, UNC Asheville vice chancellor for finance and operations.
"The university is committed to seeking input concerning development of the property from Montford residents and the Montford Neighborhood Association at all stages of the planning process," Pierce said.
UNC Asheville currently has little room for expansion. The remaining undeveloped property on campus would be difficult and costly to develop because it lacks flat building sites, he said.
UNC Asheville would like to complete the greenway segment planned for the property.
The university is in discussion with the City of Asheville regarding the location of the planned greenway segment along Reeds Creek, which would extend the existing greenway in the area. "The greenway contributes so much to the quality of life of our students and our community, and the completion of this segment will strengthen the university's connection to downtown Asheville," Pierce said.
UNC Asheville is also in discussion with RiverLink concerning fundraising for construction of the greenway segment. "RiverLink is excited about the opportunity to partner with UNC Asheville and the community to develop a greenway along this property, with an eye to eventually expanding and linking the UNC Asheville campus to the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay along the French Broad River and downtown," said Karen Cragnolin, RiverLink executive director.
More immediately, UNC Asheville would take measures to stabilize the infrastructure that had been partially developed by the Health Adventure. This would include repairing the drainage system, repairing and completing retaining walls, and planting ground cover to prevent erosion. The fencing around the property would be repaired and remain in place until further development occurs on the property.
"This purchase is fundamentally the right thing to do for the university and the community," said Sue McClinton, a member of UNC Asheville's Board of Trustees and former member of the UNC Asheville Foundation. "Even in difficult economic times, the university must always keep in mind the long-term future of the campus. Many families contributed to the Health Adventure project, both financially and with services. Considering the bankruptcy, this sale/gift brings these contributions back to serve the students of North Carolina. These same students will help ensure our future by enriching our communities."