The Chamber began considering building a new facility in the 1990s, got City Council to rezone the head of Montford Avenue for commercial use in 1999, sought approval in 2000 from the Historic Resources Commission to build in Montford (threatening to relocate to the Farmers Market near I-40 if the approval wasn't forthcoming), and opened its new facility in 2006.
At the time of the building's grand opening, the third floor of the building was being offered for commercial lease. Chamber officials said the 7,219-square-foot space — about 22 percent of the facility — could be built out to suit almost any user.
The Montford facility is 33,000 square feet in size, in addition to a 4,000-square-foot visitor center. At the time of the opening, one staff member called the facility "amazing." The hilly site still allowed for a 147-space parking lot to accommodate an expected 250,000 visitors annually.
Here's today's announcement from the Chamber:
Chamber President and CEO Kit Cramer announced today that a contract has been signed to sell a portion of the Chamber’s building at 36 Montford Avenue to Lenoir-Rhyne University for the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville.
“The sale would put us in a stronger financial position,” said Cramer. “It will also allow us to focus on our core business: growing jobs and the business environment and helping members succeed, rather than serving as a landlord.”
She described the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville as “complementary to the Chamber’s function.” “They will be serving adult students in the evenings and on weekends when we’re not using the building as much. And they have indicated their interest in helping preserve the building’s function as the area’s visitor center as well as a place to convene on important community issues. We think they’ll be great neighbors.”
Lenoir-Rhyne has signed a contract to purchase the third floor and a portion of the second floor, including a suite of offices and the Board Room space. However, the Board Room is under an easement allowing for its use as meeting room space by the Chamber in perpetuity.
Lenoir-Rhyne will own 45 percent of the space in the building with the remainder being held by the Chamber and anticipates offering master's level programs beginning in August 2012.
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Lenoir-Rhyne will pay $2.1 million for the third floor and a portion of the second floor ... the deal won’t likely close until the end of February at the earliest. ... The chamber also needs rezoning approval from the city to allow the college to use the space for classes.
Lenoir-Rhyne University is based in Hickory and affiliated with the Lutheran Church. The university's website announces its Asheville Center here:
To begin laying the groundwork for the Center, Lenoir-Rhyne recently appointed Dr. K. Paul Knott as the founding director of the Center. As director, Dr. Knott will be considering a variety of programs in formats designed to meet the diverse needs of graduate students. Lenoir-Rhyne expects to provide several offerings in health care, business and government, liberal arts and sciences and education and human services. Programs that delve into creativity, innovation, and sustainability will also be considered for possible inclusion in the curriculum.
The Asheville Center is being designed to provide graduate programs in Asheville for the region that are consistent with the high quality undergraduate education L-R has become known for. The anticipated program offerings will be designed and delivered to meet the personal, professional and economic development needs of Asheville and the Western North Carolina region. ...
L-R's website asks visitors to take a survey about what sorts of studies should be offered. The website lists the anticipated degree offerings:
Dietetics Internship (focus on obesity in children)
Master of Public Health
Master of Science in Nursing
Business and Government
Master of Business Administration (with the following track options):
Business and Sustainability - "green MBA"
Tourism and Hospitality
Health Care Administration
Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialization
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts in Writing
Master of Science in Environmental Studies
Education and Human Services
Master of Arts in Counseling
Master of Arts in Leadership
Master of Arts in Teaching
Master of Arts in Community College Administration
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