James Palenick has been in Fayetteville less than a year. He is the City of Fayetteville’s new Economic and Business Development Director. It’s his job to understand where the community is headed. Palenick, 57, brings a lot of top-shelf experience with him. He’s served as a city manager in half a dozen communities over 27 years. He was recruited for the new post that city council created a year or so ago from Dallas, N.C., and has been here since March.
Palenick has been working quietly behind the scenes as he gets acclimated to the Greater Fayetteville area. When it comes to developing the community’s economy, “what’s missing is a common vision,” he said. Most importantly, though, is that “Fayetteville is an unproven market” to outside developers and bankers. He said he understands why the Durham firm that wants to bring the former Prince Charles Hotel building back to life could not attract any of the 10 banks they approached to finance the $15 million renovation project. Instead, Prince Charles Holdings, LLC, is getting a conditional loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to cover much of the renovation’s cost.
There are few things more financially challenging, Palenick says, than the adaptive reuse of a historic building. Financiers would much rather fund new structures than risk money on older buildings. Palenick predicts the Prince Charles project, coupled with the construction of a state-of-the-art $33-million baseball stadium will fuel tens of millions of dollars in local downtown investment. He agrees with other city officials that the multi-purpose minor league stadium has the potential to attract as many as 250 events a year. For starters, there are the 72 baseball home games. In the off season, soccer, football, concerts and the presence of a 360-degree stadium concourse will attract thousands.
He believes the $24 million realignment of Bragg Boulevard, Murchison Road and West Rowan Street along with the new Rowan Street railroad overpass will spur development in what’s known as Catalyst Site 1 nearby. That work, which will take three years to complete, is getting underway this month. A catalyst site by definition is the core or nucleus of a commercial development area. Palenick predicts that once these projects are completed, downtown Fayetteville will have become a proven market for high-dollar development. “Five years down the road, Fayetteville will be perceived much differently,” he said.
Palenik tells Up & Coming Weekly that the perception from afar is that Greater Fayetteville’s leaders have not found a common vision and are willing to set egos aside. “That’s what Fayetteville is struggling with,” he said. He says he’s been a change agent all his career. “I find great fulfillment in trying to make the community better.” As for his part in all of this, “it’s very early yet. This is not the speed I was accustomed to moving,” he says. But at this point in his career, he’s patient.