In Appalachian State University’s Innovation District project, the term “campus” refers to both physical space and collaborative spirit.
This initiative is expected to have a powerful impact on the region’s economic development by expanding and enhancing Appalachian’s curriculum to produce a workforce of critical thinkers who are capable of developing economically, environmentally and equitably sound communities.
The Innovation District will be located at the site of the former Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on Bodenheimer Drive and the edge of the neighboring Nature Preserve.
New facilities being discussed are:
- A 15,000-square-foot Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research, partitioned into spaces for research, teaching and demonstration.
- Eight greenhouse rooms.
- Workspace for multidisciplinary projects.
- Research/lab/studio space renewable energy labs.
- Conference rooms.
- Expanded exhibition space.
The Innovation District will embrace multiple disciplines and include collaborations both on campus and with the community. It will bring together expertise found in the Appalachian Energy Center, the Center for Appalachian Studies, the Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Small Business and Technology Development Center.
This project is described in Appalachian’s Master Plan 2025 as “The Broyhill Innovation District.” (page 87)
How is it funded?
The Bodenheimer Drive property has been designated as millennial campus space since 2015. This gives Appalachian the flexibility to develop the property with private sector firms, issue bonds or lease the space.
Who will benefit?
Students who will become tomorrow’s solution-makers, as well as the community, state, region and beyond who are served by the increased student engagement with research, creativity, innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship.
How does it support UNC System Goals and Metrics?
Appalachian can produce more graduates in the critical workforce areas for North Carolina — identified in the UNC System’s strategic plan as STEM, health sciences, K-12 education and emerging workforce areas — who are capable of addressing the needs of the world.
The full Innovation District may not be realized for 10 years. University leaders are in the planning stages for the proposed facilities, beginning with the botanical conservatory which can demonstrate, on a small scale, the envisioned interplay of the Innovation District.
A 360-degree view of the future Innovation District site, which will include the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research. Video by Marie Freeman
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 120 years later, students still feel the pull of this unique place, and Appalachian has remained grounded in the vision of our Founders, providing rural access to a sterling education and serving the region.
As the University of North Carolina 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 Appalachian’s strengths and regional identity. Collaborations across colleges and disciplines will prepare students for career progression in a dynamic work environment.
Nearly 120 years after the Dougherty Brothers set forth on their ambitious plan, Appalachian’s pioneering vision is bolder than ever.