Well, first, let me go on record as saying that I am all for having a Visual, Cultural & Performing Arts Center in Downtown Fayetteville. I will support the initiative 100 percent — both physically and financially. This has always been a great idea. However, what I find hard to support is spending another $63,000 on another outside consulting firm to tell us what a good idea it is, how much it will cost and where to put it. This is no reflection on the recently hired Webb Management Services in any way, but, I think we have the talent and leadership here in our own community to make this kind of determination. After all, don’t you think we may have studied this enough over the last two decades? The City Council, if I remember correctly, spent almost the same exact amount of money hiring Studio Cascade Inc., to update the Fayetteville Renaissance Plan in 2012. And, if my calculations are correct, it will take the same amount of time (one year) and will follow the same process of having local public hearings, interviewing residents, artists, downtown businesses and property owners.
Those of us who have been around for a while have heard many, many shared ideas on how to perk up our economy by perking up our Downtown. I guess you could say this process started in 1996 with the talented late architect Robert Marvin with his A Complete Fayetteville, Once and For All, plan. This was a real Fayetteville eye opener. His $27+ million Fayetteville facelift recommendation called for a huge mound overlooking a water feature, a parking garage, charter school, amphitheater, pavilion, park and plenty of downtown diversity from construction of residential housing catering to various socioeconomic groups. The cost of Marvin’s insights? Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money. That was nearly 17 years ago. Was it worth it? Did we get good value from this investment? Well, since that time, we adopted the Fayetteville Renaissance Plan (2002) — a neat little package consisting of 3,000 acres of downtown Fayetteville targeted for greatness. This plan was recently revised in 2012 by another consulting firm from Seattle, Washington. So, I ask again, why do we feel we need another feasibility study and what have we learned from the ones in which we have already invested? Has our community really changed in the last 15 years? With the exception of BRAC, I really don’t think so. Big business is not located here in Cumberland County. Unlike the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem and Greensboro that we are often compared to, we do not have the large and generous corporate entities here in our community that can support such large institutional arts venues.
Actually, truth be known, I think we have a lot to thank Mr. Marvin for. Think about it. Granted, we don’t have that huge mound of dirt he recommended as Fayetteville’s central signature showcase feature, but we do have the Airborne & Special Operations Museum — not a bad central signature showcase. In addition, we have benefited from several other insights and ideas Marvin suggested in his original plan — things like a new convenient downtown parking deck and a charter school on the way. Festival Park covers his recommendation for an amphitheater and park as does the Cape Fear River Trail. And, what I feel is our most successful achievement that resulted from this preliminary 17-year-old study, the proliferation and growth of residents and various housing opportunities downtown, including the lofts and apartments, the 300 Block of Hay St., Ralph Huff’s Park View Condominiums and, of course, the Hope VI project. The genesis of all these ideas and accomplishments came from Marvin’s original plan. The execution and refinement came from us.
My point is simply this, we have already heard from the experts so why not now rely on the skills, talents, intelligence and ingenuity of our own residents, local artists and city and county staff and elected officials to determine if there is a real need for a downtown Visual, Cultural & Performing Arts Center. I guarantee that collectively they will know the right questions to ask, and, truth be known, they already know the answers. For $63,000 of taxpayer money, no one should be surprised or disappointed when the findings are things that we have known for many, many years. In my next life I want to be a consultant (from out of town!) or a weatherman. Either way, I could never be wrong and always free from criticism. Thank you for reading Fayetteville’s community newspaper: Up & Coming Weekly.
Photo: In the past 17 years there have been several plans for downtown, start-ing with Robert Marvin’s A Complete Fayetteville, Once and For All, plan.