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uac112112001.gif We’ve come a long way, baby! If you have been in Fayetteville for just a few years, you may not appreciate the changes and improvements that have happened in the downtown area over the past decade or so. Having never seen the rough and tumble version of Hay Street, it would be hard to imagine the area as anything other than the quaint and charming city center it is today. As good as things are now, there is still a lot of work to be done and the city is at a pivotal point in this development process that started in the mid 1990s — and that is a good thing.

This process started when local landscape architect Robert Martin introduced a plan in 1996 that laid out ideas for improvement in the downtown area. The plan was called A Complete Fayetteville Once and For All.

Then in 2002, the Fayetteville Renaissance Plan was introduced. It focuses on 3,000 acres that cover an area from the Cape Fear River to the Martin Luther King Freeway as well as Fayetteville State University. While many of us were busy going about our daily lives the past decade or so, the Fayetteville Renaissance Plan was being carried out around us, to the tune of $99,623,803, the majority of which was provided by private business ($58, 443,055). The result was 386 building projects including Festival Park, Linear Park, Freedom Park, thee 300 Block of Hay Street development, the Franklin Street Parking Deck and the Hope VI development. Now, the community has some choices to make about what needs to happen next.

“We’ve exhausted some of the projects that were in the original plans,” said Jami McLaughlin, downtown development manager. “So much has happened that we really had no choice but to relook at things.”

Since this is a plan that will effect everyone in Cumberland County, it only makes sense to put some thought into it. Where do we go from here? Well, that is up to you — the community. Studio Cascade, a consulting firm chosen by a committee made up of representatives from the Arts Council, the Downtown Alliance and city staff, has a few ideas to get the conversation started. The end result will be shaped by input from the community and interested parties.

There are three visions that Studio Cascade has put forth for the community to consider for the next phase of development:

Destination Downtown would develop the 3,000 acres with the intent of making it a place to visit, shop, eat and be entertained. The focus would be on business development and cultural destinations. Downtown would become an event-driven location with surrounding areas including commercial services and easy parking. The river district would offer scenic and recreational opportunities. In this plan FSU would still be a focal point with policies geared toward developing and capitalizing on the insititution’s creative potential. FSU would be considered the area’s “alma mater” and students would be sought as downtown residents and potential employees — even after graduation.

Hometown Downtown envisions the area as a place with several living options intermingled with businesses and entertainment venues. Downtown would be its own neighborhood. Russell and Person Streets would have market-rate housing, grocery and commercial businesses. There would be a mixed-use neighborhood near the river connected to downtown via the walkable portions of Russell and Person Streets.

Diversity Downtown sees an area embracing the many cultures and talents of the community. Downtown would be the core of the area with commercial and housing options along Russell and Person Streets extending to the river. This plan includes a loft-style mixed-use neighborhood, a focus on the neighborhood center near the old Orange Street School and a focus on making a walkable corridor along Russell Street and the Spivey School/Hope VI area. FSU would be incorporated into downtown through curricula and special programs designed to blend different parts of the city and celebrate diversity.

Of course, the end result will likely be a combination of the three plans. If ever there was a time to contribute to the conversation, to educate yourself about where the city is headed, to make a difference in the shaping of your community, it is now. The planners, the developers,11-21-12-cover-story.gif the leaders in the community are all waiting to hear from the people of Cumberland County about what the city will look like 10 years from now.

“We hope not only business owners and developers will participate, but customers, too,” said McLaughlin. “All of Cumberland County needs to have a say in this. This is their home town.”

There are several ways to participate in the conversation and be heard. The first is to attend Storefront Studio at 100 Hay St. (in the Self Help building). From Dec. 4-6, the space will be filled with information, posters, maps and accomplishments thus far in The Fayetteville Renaissance Plan. Consultants from Studio Cascade, the firm that has laid out the potential plans for the future of downtown and the 3,000-acre development area, will be on hand to provide information, but more importantly, to gather information, insight and direction from people who stop by. There will be workshops, interactive events and resources that encourage each visitor to share ideas.

“We are looking to generate creativity and input,” said Cascade Studio Consultant Bill Grimes. “We want people to come and talk to us. We want to include businesses, local citizens, the military community, investors, educators — you name it. This is an open conversation. We are looking to squeeze as much out of the community and ourselves as we can in these few days.”

Storefront Studio runs from Dec. 4-6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day and with interactive workshops from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 5-6.

McLaughlin and Grimes both hope for a good turn out at Storefront Studio, as it offers a chance to ask questions and give and receive feedback. If that is out of the question, check out www.facebook.com/downtownfayetteville and participate in the survey to provide input. The survey is also available online at www.visitdowntownfayetteville.com through Dec. 6.

For more information, contact Jami Sheppard McLaughlin, IOM Downtown Development Manager at 910-433-1599.

Photo: The Fayetteville Renaissance Plan covers a 3,000-acre area that is being considered for further development over the next decade. 

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