Like many Haymount residents and business owners in the iconic historical district, Bobby Ray Wiggs’ roots run deep. He was born and raised in Haymount and has a home there, too. Wiggs owns Haymont Auto Repair and considers many of his customers family. While he cherishes the closeknit feeling in the area and the way neighbors look out for one another, Wiggs is the first to admit it’s not always paradise. A fast-growing community, heavy traffic and other issues often make for dangerous, congested intersections, frustrated residents and stressed-out drivers. What if it didn’t have to be that way? Saturday, March 10, Build a Better Haymount aims to explore the possibilities.
From 1-5 p.m., the 1200 block of Hay Street will be transformed to include narrow traffic lanes, wide sidewalks, bike lanes, plazas, music, art, food and festivities. There will be a temporary plaza where local bands Brother Ellis and J.D. and Bill will play throughout the afternoon. Local food trucks will be in attendance serving up a variety of tasty food options.
The project has been almost a year in the making, bringing together residents, the city and nonprofits to create an afternoon of fun as well as an opportunity to explore options for the district’s future. Angie Hedgepeth is the government affairs director for the Fayetteville Regional Association of Realtors. “The National Association of Realtors has grants for a variety of things, including growth and betterment of communities,” she said. “Last June, the city approached us about a grant.” In researching how the grant would affect Fayetteville, she found that several other North Carolina cities, to include Asheville, Charlotte and Durham, had pursued and received similar grants.
When the city of Fayetteville won the grant, Hedgepeth, along with Cumberland County transportation planner Eric Vitale, community residents, some of the Haymount businesses and others, rolled up their sleeves and set out to create an afternoon to remember.
“We started meeting with the residents last July to talk about ways we can transition the area into what the community envisions,” said Hedgepeth. “They told us what they wanted.”
Although residents gave the input, the event is free to attend and open to the public. “We want to let people know about Haymount,” Wiggs said.
Vitale said, “We will be counting traffic and attendance and doing some surveys to get feedback. We will also have a drone camera flying around videoing the set up as well as the event.”
“It is going to be a lot of fun,” said Hedgepeth. “Several local artists will be there. We are going to have a community mural. There will be vendors and pop-up retailers and a magician. Some of the retailers will have sidewalk sales, too.”
“This is family-friendly and pet-friendly,” said Vitale. “We will have water bowls so people can bring their pets.” A firetruck exhibit is also scheduled for the event.
Wiggs is planning to use the parking lot at Haymont Auto Repair to support the effort. He’s hosting a Kid Zone and will have a port-a-potty on one side of his property. “We are expecting a food truck, too,” he said. “And we will have a separate section with antiques for sale.”
The activities are a big part of the afternoon, but there is more. Narrowing the streets will allow for both functional and aesthetic changes, including turning the thoroughfare into a tree-lined street complete with bike lanes.
“There will be parking at Highland Presbyterian Church,” said Vitale. “We are not going to block any of the neighborhood driveways for this.”
Residential, traffic and business interests don’t always align in this part of town. There are busy intersections and dangerous road crossings. For some drivers unfamiliar with the traffic pattern, the roads can be confusing. As a business owner, Wiggs understands that it can be challenging having homes and businesses and a thoroughfare so close together. “There are things we can do,” Wiggs said. “But, we don’t want to change the things that make Haymount special.”
Though this is mostly an information gathering exercise, many hope it is the start of a conversation that will lead to workable solutions. Things like clearly marked, well-placed crosswalks could go a long way in improving things, Wiggs noted.
“I just want to see the community happy,” said Hedgepeth.
“We want to look at the event and see smiles, happy families and people having fun,” Vitale agreed.
“I am all for anything that can help make it safer and better for everyone,” Wiggs said. “We all want that.”
Though no one is sure how this will impact Haymount in the end, March 10, from 1-5 p.m. the parties involved are excited to have an afternoon to showcase, celebrate and dream big dreams for this community. Vitale encourages anyone who is active on social media to post photos using the hashtags #buildabetterhaymount and #betterblockfaync. Learn more by visiting www.betterblockfaync.com to. To volunteer, call Hedgepeth at 910-323-1421 or Vitale at 910-678-7632.