This aerial photo, taken June 13, 2022, shows the future home of App State’s Innovation District project, which will include the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research. The site is located atop Bodenheimer Drive. Click on the image for a full view. Photo by Wes Craig and Chase Reynolds
The Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research is one of several major projects being planned at Appalachian State University to enhance the App State Experience.
The project supports the strategic plan of App State and the university’s goals and metrics associated with the University of North Carolina System’s strategic plan. It will benefit students, academics and the community.
The conservatory will be the first academic building of App State’s Innovation District, located at the site of the former Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on Bodenheimer Drive. This facility, which is included in the first development phase for the district, will include cross-disciplinary collaboration and encourage K–12 partnerships. Other components of phase one include faculty and staff housing and a district energy system.
Paired with the adjacent Nature Preserve, the conservatory will advance knowledge surrounding the natural and cultural history of the Southern Appalachian region, allowing the App State Community and visitors to:
- understand the natural history and economic importance of our region’s biodiversity; and
- gain a heightened appreciation of the research and creative endeavors being conducted at App State.
The conservatory will build on existing opportunities available through the Department of Biology’s teaching and research facilities.
This video provides an aerial view of App State’s Innovation District — the future home of the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research. The district will be located at the site of the former Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on Bodenheimer Drive.
App State hired architectural engineering firm Clark Nexsen to conduct a feasibility study for the conservatory. Clark Nexsen presented its report Jan. 30, 2019, after weeks of meeting with a variety of stakeholders to determine the best mix of gardens, conservatory, labs and meeting space. The report was reviewed by university leaders, and App State has selected Radnor Property Group LLC (Randor) to manage the conservatory’s design and construction. Architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent is the university’s selected designer for the conservatory.
The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors approved the pre-development letter of intent for the district’s first phase in July 2022. This agreement with Randnor will allow App State to deliver phase one of the Innovation District as quickly and efficiently as possible. Academic programming for the facility was determined in spring 2022.
App State’s targeted opening date for the conservatory is 2025, with construction anticipated to begin in summer 2023 — once the design for the building is finalized.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the first development phase of the Innovation District, which includes the conservatory, was held March 25, 2022.
This conceptual rendering of App State’s Innovation District shows options for the project, including the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research, housing for faculty and staff, and shared parking. Graphic courtesy of Brailsford & Dunlavey
How is it funded?
Expenses for the conservatory feasibility study completed by Clark Nexsen were paid with state funds through App State’s Division of Academic Affairs.
Funding allocated to App State by the North Carolina General Assembly as part of the FY 2021–22 biennial budget bill, signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Nov. 18, 2021, allows the university to begin work on the conservatory. The budget includes $79 million for capital projects — including $54 million in non-recurring funds to begin work on the Innovation District — and $43.15 million for one-time repair and renovation project support.
Who will benefit?
Students in App State’s College of Arts and Sciences and their faculty mentors will use the conservatory’s state-of-the art research space for basic and applied research. Visitors, including K-12 students and community members, will benefit from the scientific exhibits and demonstrations informed by the research conducted at the facility.
How does it support UNC System Goals and Metrics?
App State can produce more graduates in the critical workforce areas for North Carolina — identified in the UNC System’s strategic plan as STEM, K-12 education, health sciences, and emerging workforce areas — who are capable of addressing the needs of the world.
Appalachian's Innovation District Video Transcript
Voiceover: In 1899, the misty ridges of Northwestern North Carolina became home to a simple, yet powerful vision: to transform lives and the region through the empowerment of education. Nearly 125 years later, students still feel the pull of this unique place, and Appalachian State University remains grounded in the vision of our founders, providing rural access to a sterling education and serving the region.
As the University of North Carolina System continues to expand signature educational opportunities in Western North Carolina, Appalachian’s contribution to this effort is an Innovation District, which will enhance curriculum while delivering a profound impact on the region’s economic development.
Located at the edge of a 65-acre nature preserve, the Innovation District will provide a vital link between the university and the regional community through education, research and outreach.
As the Innovation District develops, it will provide a vital and dynamic space where students and faculty will work together with industry partners in specialized areas that capitalize on App State’s strengths and regional identity. Collaborations across colleges and disciplines will prepare students for career progression in a dynamic work environment.
Nearly 125 years after B.B., D.D. and Lillie Shull Dougherty set forth on their ambitious plan, App State’s pioneering vision is bolder than ever.
Major current projects:
- App State at Hickory Campus
- Innovation District
- Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research
- Appalachian 105
- Arts Corridor
- Holmes Parking Deck
- University Bookstore renovation
- Wey Hall Renovation
- Newland Hall Renovation
- Peacock Hall Addition and Renovation
- Edwin Duncan Hall Renovation
- Boone Creek Daylighting