UNC Asheville -
City of Asheville agreement sets stage for new partnerships;
Joint launch of RENCI Engagement Site at Grove Arcade benefits region
long-standing, informal partnership between UNC Asheville and City of
Asheville took a step forward today with the signing of a joint
agreement that sets the stage for future collaborations.
UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder and Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy,
who signed the agreement, were joined by UNC President Erskine Bowles
and city, university and elected officials at the ceremony, held at the
Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville. The memo of understanding provides
a framework for further collaborations in a number of areas important to
the city and the region: environmental sustainability, health and
wellness, culture and recreation, economic development and technology,
and public safety.
"I am really excited about this collaboration because it is with one of
the best universities in the country," said Mayor Bellamy. "Today goes
beyond liberal arts studies, today we are talking about economic
development, keeping people healthy, promoting education and working
"What we're doing at this very moment is more than signing a piece of
paper," said Chancellor Ponder. "The University of North Carolina
Asheville and City of Asheville do work together, are working together
and will work together. Whether it is climate and technology,
sustainability, health and wellness, public safety, this is exactly what
Chancellor Ponder noted that the partnership agreement fits perfectly
with the university's strategic plan, the city's goals, and UNC
Tomorrow, the UNC system's plan for responding to the needs of North
President Bowles agreed. "I think the real benefit of the signing of the
memorandum of understanding is that it will enable us to leverage the
fabulous resources and people we bring together as a group. More will
come forward from it and benefit the people of this region," he said.
The signing was followed by the official opening of the Renaissance
Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC Asheville Engagement Site at its new
location at the Grove Arcade. RENCI is a multi-institution virtual
organization headquartered in the Research Triangle that provides high
performance computing technologies and a diverse research faculty to
address important problems in North Carolina. The engagement site is one
of several in the state established through university-RENCI
In its new location, the RENCI at UNC Asheville Engagement Site will
provide leading edge technology for area decision makers and other
collaborators in the areas of disaster research, mitigation and
preparedness, taking advantage of Western North Carolina’s expertise in
weather and climate modeling, visualization and public outreach.
Locating the engagement site in downtown Asheville, in close proximity
to its many users, is a primary example of the benefits of cooperation
and collaboration between the UNC Asheville and the city.
Jim Fox, director of the RENCI at
UNC Asheville Engagement site, noted that over 20 partners – including
the city, National Climatic Data Center, U.S. Forest Service, Land of
Sky Regional Council and Buncombe County -- are involved in the work at
"What we're doing is addressing key
societal issues: climate change, land use change, economic development,
water resources. These are all challenges that cannot be handled
individually. We need to provide the tools for local decision makers –
the city, the county, the state – to be able to access those trusted
sorts of information and make the critical decisions as we move ahead.
The key is the people, all working together," Fox said.
The city and UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and
Analysis Center (NEMAC) began working together after the widespread
flooding that occurred in the wake of a series of hurricanes in 2004.
With technological assistance from RENCI at UNC Asheville, which is part
of NEMAC, the group developed a 3D watershed tool that shows the
location of flood-prone areas, impervious surfaces and the effect of
future building in the watershed. This set of tools is being used to
create a new plan to mitigate the effects of the floods and to avoid
flooding in the future.
"I am really excited to have these
tools available, accessible and affordable for the City of Asheville and
the County of Buncombe," Mayor Bellamy said.
"Even in times like these, when we
have to discern very carefully what we can invest in because we can't do
everything, we are choosing to do this with the City of Asheville
because it is so important," said Chancellor Ponder.
Media Contacts: Merianne Epstein,
UNC Asheville, 828-251-6676 (office), 828-545-6447 (mobile)
Lauren Bradley, City of Asheville, 828-259-5484 (office),