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ellness center planned on Richmond Hill property in Asheville

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8/2/2011 - Wellness center planned on Richmond Hill property in Asheville
by Mark Barrett - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- A new nonprofit organization plans a wellness center on the former Richmond Hill Inn property, which it has bought for $4.5 million.

Oshun Mountain Sanctuary, also known as OM Sanctuary, hopes to provide "wellness programs and experiences to renew the body, mind and spirit, reconnecting individuals with themselves, their community and nature," according to partner organization RiverLink.

OM Sanctuary still has $5 million to raise before opening. It would build a "life enhancement center" on the site of the historic mansion that was once the center of the inn.

The mansion, built in 1889, burned in March 2009.

Several other buildings around the inn were not harmed and will be used for the wellness center, said Karen Cragnolin, RiverLink's executive director.

The property is on the west bank of the French Broad River not far from the Broadway/Riverside Drive intersection.

Albert and Marge Michel, of Greensboro, opened an inn on the property in 1989. The inn was sold in 2005, but the Michels got the property back last fall as a result of foreclosure on a loan they made to the buyer.

According to property records, their company loaned $1.5 million to OM Sanctuary to facilitate the July 22 purchase, which includes more than 50 acres around the inn. A good deal of the property will be placed in a conservation easement, RiverLink says.

Much of the money to buy the property came from Sandy Mush residents Shelli and Brad Stanback. The center is Shelli Stanback's idea, Cragnolin said.

Shelli Stanback is the head of OM Sanctuary's board of directors, and the couple have donated to several conservation- and environmental-related efforts in Western North Carolina.

"I always knew Asheville, with its nurturing mountains, streams and outstanding talent sprinkled throughout the region, would be an amazing location for a wellness-oriented retreat center," she said in a statement.

Services the center would offer include "life enhancement programs, contemplative space," healthy food, education on body and mind, yoga and spa treatments, Riv erLink says.

Those services are also available at a number of other places around the region.

OM Sanctuary's niche will be as "a multifaceted facility and a center for excellence," Cragnolin said. "If you wanted to go to an acupuncturist, for example, how would you know who to go to?"

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