Local News

Systel Building lands bank tenant as major renovations continue

ScissorsCuttingRibbonHC1607 source The Systel Building in downtown Fayetteville, with its looming aluminum-and-glass facade, has been undergoing extensive renovations since August 2018. Now, it has a new anchor tenant.

Raleigh-headquartered Dogwood State Bank has moved into the first floor of the downtown fixture, which ranks as the city center’s tallest. Listed at 168 feet high, the 11-story building dates to 1973 when it was completed at a cost of $3 million, online sources say.

A half century later, changes are underway, including a new name for the building at 225 Green St. in the Cool Spring Downtown District.
A sign with the name will be unveiled at a ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6.

“I don't think I can say,” said Jacqueline Smith, when asked about the new name. "But if you call me back Monday, I can tell you."

Smith, whose family owns the building, is the broker in charge for the Systel Building for Allison Capital Partners.
Smith did say that the name is of a new company looking to grow in Fayetteville.

Dogwood State Bank, which is in the process of growing statewide, has the naming rights. The bank's CEO is Steve Jones, a former Fayetteville resident.
Jones could not be reached for comment last week. Dogwood “was a great addition, and it helps us with our goals of making the building a mixed use, having the retail bank in there. And it allowed us to kind of complete our full renovation of the first floor,” Smith said.

She works with the property managers on site. The building has 37 tenants, including a couple on the rooftop, Smith said.

“We’re going to follow that with a complete lobby renovation here shortly,” she said. “We’re now 100% occupied on the first floor with a variation of retail, restaurant and office. We’ve kind of accomplished our goals there.”In a news release, Smith said her family had been looking for an anchor tenant to rebrand the building since Systel — a technology and business services company — relocated to an industrial park 10 years ago.

Formerly known as the Wachovia Building, the Systel property is owned by Fayetteville businessman Keith Allison and his three daughters: Smith, Cara Spencer and Janene Aul. The investment in the building will total about $3 million once all the work is complete, Smith said.

Many of the city's older residents will remember when the Skyline disco club was at the top of the building in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I think that downtown is sort of the hub of the city, and it’s usually the focal area for government and where people like to eat and dine and live,” said Smith.

“We have the largest square footage of leasable space and I think the largest tract of acreage. If needed, we could add a parking deck, or another high-rise building could exist next to us in the parking lot."

Extensive renovations

The family bought the property in 1998 and had been using the building in recent years to house its marketing department and mortgage company.

“We knew it would be a three- to five-year project,” Smith said of the revitalization. “In the process, three floors were gutted.”

A couple of months ago, a fitness center opened on the second floor, Smith said.

“So that was a big part of the revitalization. And we just signed off and have full engineer plans on our fifth-floor renovation that we have to start in the next few months,” she said.

Plans for that space include an “industrial, upscale office space,” she said. A similar renovation on the eighth floor is anticipated.
Smith said a lot has been accomplished on the building since construction began in 2018.

“We’ve completed our restaurant downstairs, and they celebrated their one-year anniversary three months ago,” she said. “We did a big campaign to recruit one, and we did some interviews with a couple of interested parties and did some taste testings and selected one.”

Friend’s Table, whose food is described as upscale Southern, opened in November 2021.

“They’re open for breakfast and lunch. They’ve got a pretty good following on social media,” she said. “They’re always doing something fun and unique in the space. They’re even open on the weekends, as well.”

Besides the bank and restaurant, the property management office and a conference room that can be used by tenants are on the first floor. A state tenant with a lab is also on the ground floor.

Smith said the owners tried to recruit tenants not just to Fayetteville but to downtown.

“We’ve got a couple of floors to go, but we’ve got a couple of things that we’re working on for some of the top floors that we hope come to fruition,” she said.

“But other than that, we’re kind of coming to the ending stages of our revitalization. And leasing out the naming rights was a kind of a surprise component of the revitalization that we weren’t expecting, but it makes sense.”

Renovations on the Systel Building could be completed this year depending on some plans still being worked on for the top floors.

“If that were to come to fruition, it could add to our timeline quite a bit,” Smith said. “We are now exploring options for a residential or hospitality component. We're looking into it.”

City Council may consider PWC appointment, cost of gun violence

Fayetteville Logo Fayetteville City Councilman Mario Benavente is pushing for action on two issues: the long-delayed appointment of a city representative on the Public Works Commission and the cost of gun violence locally.

The City Council will meet in a work session at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6 at City Hall.

One of Benavente’s agenda requests is that the council appoint its PWC representative during its regular meeting on Feb. 13.
In early December, council members interviewed four of five candidates for the post: Christopher Davis, William Gothard, Josef Hallastchek and Peter Stewart. Ted Mohn, a fifth candidate, was not able to attend that meeting.

The representative will replace Wade Fowler, the owner of Fowler’s Southern Gourmet restaurant, who is serving his second term on the commission.

According to city rules, no commissioner may serve more than two consecutive terms.
As each appointment on the board expires, according to the city’s website, council members choose a representative on the commission for a term of four years. In addition, the mayor annually designates a member of the council to serve on the PWC as a nonvoting member.

In September, Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram asked for a delay on the appointment.
Ingram said she prefers to wait until a new CEO for the utility is named. Elana Ball resigned from that job, Mick Noland was named interim CEO.

On Sept. 12, the City Council voted 6-4 to delay its appointment.

In another agenda request from Benavente, the first-term councilman said he is eager to “quantify the economic and societal costs associated with gun violence in the city from 2012 to 2022 and inform policy options and strategies to advance violence prevention."
Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin is a co-signer on that request, which asks that the city staff compile data on fatal and nonfatal injuries related to gun violence and gun possession..

“Improving issues of gun violence requires a multisectoral, systemwide response that includes partnerships with communities most affected in addition to legislative and criminal justice action,” Banks-McLaughlin and Benavente wrote in their agenda request.
Neither Benavente nor Banks-McLaughlin could be reached for comment on Sunday.

 Like other cities nationwide, Fayetteville has seen an uptick in gun violence and homicides recently. The Police Department has implemented initiatives in hopes of lowering crime.

Plans for historic chapel on agenda for Hopes Mills commissioners

hope mills logo Plans to update an historic chapel as a space for public functions will be discussed at the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, Feb. 6.
The board will meet at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

On Jan. 23, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department presented commissioners with a report on options for public use of Thomas Campbell Oakman Memorial Chapel.

The chapel was donated to the town and is available for rent.
The church was built in 1889 and suffered a fire in 1931. It was rebuilt the same year, according to town records.

Town officials have said that the number of pews in the chapel limit what functions it can accommodate. They are recommending that all but six pews be removed so “the staff can have a broader range of rental possibilities,” according to a memo from Parks and Recreation Director Lamarco Morrison.

On Feb. 1, the commissioners met with members of the Historic Preservation Committee at the chapel to get input on whether pews should be removed and the best use of the facility.

According to Morrison’s memo, the staff recommends several options for the pews if they are removed, including repurposing them as picnic tables or benches for the future Heritage Park. They also could be donated sold, the memo says.

The staff also recommends removing all the railings around both altars and relocating the chapel’s original furniture.
Residents are invited to speak at Monday’s meeting. Each speaker must register with the town clerk before the meeting and limit their comments to three minutes.

Also Monday, the board will:

  • Consider a proposal from CHA Consulting Inc. and authorize the town manager to negotiate an agreement for professional design services related to the Hope Mills Sports Complex.
  • Consider a change to a rule that any member of the public who wishes to add a topic to the board's agenda must submit the request to the appropriate department. If the request is deemed by the department to be beneficial to the town, the department will forward it to the town clerk to be added to the agenda.
  • Consider a request from Mauricio Melagar Andrade that 1.2 acres known as Park Garden Cour be annexed.

Cumberland commissioner advocating new approach to provide affordable housing

cumberland county logo Cumberland County Commissioner Jimmy Keefe wants more “bang for the buck” when using county money to buy homes for the homeless, and he is asking fellow commissioners to endorse a plan to remedy the problem.

Keefe is asking the board to adopt a resolution that spells out specific ways to ensure the county can provide a greater number of affordable homes at more reasonable costs. He will submit his proposal at a commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The 1 p.m. session will be in Room 564 of the Cumberland County Courthouse and is open to the public.

The three-page draft resolution will be presented by interim County Manager Renee Paschal.
If adopted, the resolution will be placed on the agenda for the Feb. 20 commissioners meeting, according to Paschal.

The resolution calls for the commissioners to work with affordable housing and workforce housing stakeholders and experts, including area builders who have expertise in the design and construction of low- and moderate-income developments. These experts would develop housing policies that address the availability and affordability of workforce housing in the county.

A key part of the resolution is a proposed board policy that all homeless project funding will not exceed the median cost of a similar dwelling in Cumberland County. Keefe wants to base that figure on the most recent tax evaluation or census data. Keefe says adoption of this policy would ensure the construction of more affordable housing, greater financial oversight, and would be in keeping with the board’s mission statement to provide quality services while being fiscally responsible.

Another component is the creation of a housing coordinator position with responsibilities associated with the homeless situation. That staff member would report to the county manager. Some of the coordinator’s responsibilities would include:

  • Drafting and recommending homeless or affordable housing policies and action plans.
  • Contacting designers, developers and construction companies about competitive and responsible partnerships on projects.
  • Coordinating a process that ensures applicants get into affordable housing and making sure anyone who is not eligible vacate those properties.
  • Research funding sources.
  • Monitor housing inventory, including identifying compliance violations.
  • Community outreach and education programs.
  • Marketing affordable housing.
  • Helping prepare plans for housing projects.

The county Community Development Department administers federal and local funding to provide affordable homes for county residents who cannot afford proper housing.

At a recent board meeting, Keefe balked at moving $2.7 million from a sewer project to fund another affordable housing project with what he considered unrealistic costs. According to Keefe, the county would pay close to $285 per square foot for construction when the average cost in Cumberland County is closer to $130 per square foot, especially for townhouse-type dwellings that share common walls.

Although the money comes to Cumberland County from the federal and state governments, there are complex rules about how and when the money must be used.

In November, the Board of Commissioners was asked to transfer $2.7 million from the Shaw Heights sewer project to the Robin’s Meadow supportive housing project, which would fund 12 additional apartments and a community resource center.

Each unit would have three bedrooms and 1½ bathrooms. They would range from 1,290 to 1,450 square feet, and two units would be disability-compliant.

The state allocated about $2.5 million in Community Block Grant disaster recovery funding to build affordable housing in the county. In June 2020, the county commissioners approved the design of the Robins Meadow project. In October 2020, the county asked for an additional $100,000 in grants for construction and support services. The total budget for the project rose to about $3 million.

The county sought construction bids, but there were no responses, county Community Development Director Dee Taylor told committee members at a previous meeting. She added that since the initial approval of funding, construction prices have increased.

“Everything increased drastically during the pandemic,” she told the commissioners. “The original budget is no longer sufficient to cover the cost to build this housing project. The current projected cost is $285 per square foot.”

Grant guidelines required that the project close the financing gap by Nov. 30, and the county must have a qualified contractor in place by March 20. If the county does not meet those deadlines, it could lose the state grants.

Another trigger for Keefe came via an internal email from interim County Manager Renee Paschal. It involves a proposed 40-unit high-rise to provide housing for the elderly at 108 Wiley St., off Ramsey Street. The project is a combination of 10 one-bedroom and 30 two-bedroom units. Ten of the two-bedroom units will accommodate inter-generational families, which include families with a child, a grandparent, or a relative raising a child. The estimated construction cost is $14 million.

The Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority is spearheading the project and has signaled to the county that it would eventually ask for partial funding.

The developer is Hillside-Fmha LLC, and most of the proposed funding would be from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Keefe said $14 million for 40 units would equal $350,000 for each.The average home in Cumberland County is valued at about $200,000, he said.
Keefe is suggesting taking a new approach to provide homes for the homeless.

“The old way of doing things is not working. We’re spending a lot of money but not getting much of an impact to help the homeless,” he said. “It doesn’t look like we’re making progress.”

Commissioners Veronica Jones and Michael Boose agreed. Both suggested buying existing housing or apartments and foregoing new and more expensive construction. Commissioners Vice Chairman Glenn Adams suggested creating an advisory committee that could help determine whether the county builds new homes or buys existing properties.

Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations partners with Vision Resource Center for Dining & Dialogue

10 The Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Department, in partnership with the Vision Resource Center hosted a Dining & Dialogue event at Cape Fear Botanical Garden on Jan. 25 to raise awareness about challenges encountered by people that are blind or visually impaired as they navigate the community.

With more the 110 people in attendance, the VRC emphasized the importance of the topic by having participants without visual impairment wear blindfolds or simulation glasses during lunch.
The VRC’s Executive Director Terri Thomas said, “As people are eating, they will get an idea of what it’s like to be blind or visually impaired.”

Thomas wants more events like this to raise awareness of the challenges and support needed for people experiencing life with limited to no sight to live more independently.

“Hopefully, people leave differently than the way they came, wanting to advocate for people with any disability not just visual impairment,” she said. “I want people to think, ‘what can I do to be more inclusive.’”

Dining & Dialogue is a lunch-and-learn style event where community members can learn from each other about different identities and cultures by having crucial conversations on difficult issues. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director Yamile Nazar, who leads the Human Relations Department, said raising consciousness of the experience of others is integral to the mission of the department and Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission.

Nazar said, “Our number one focus is heightening people’s awareness around experiences that are not like theirs. Unless we are having the experience, we just don’t know what we don’t know.”
She continued, “So, [with] heightening awareness comes sensitivity to someone else’s plight.”

At the tables, the dialogues were led by community members who are living with visual impairments. Waleed Nuridin and Latasha Smith receive VRC services. They told their stories which included overcoming depression and learning how to re-enter their career.

Other speakers talked about the lack of chirping sidewalk crossings and audible elevators, things that could help them lead more independent lives. Thomas presented the work of the VRC to the Human Relations Commission leading to the Dining & Dialogue on sight limitations.

Semone Pemberton, chairwomen of the Human Relations Commission, is passionate about having conversations that raise awareness of community needs to city and county leaders. Additionally, they encourage community members to learn how to enhance interactions with one another.

“The commission’s role is to facilitate dialogue and bring people together to make impactful change,” said Pemberton. 10a

The VRC’s mission is to enhance the lives of adults and children living in the Cape Fear Region who are blind or visually impaired. As a part of that mission, the Dining & Dialogue was an impactful and educational experience for those not experiencing life without or with limited sight.

“I hope the event urged people to think beyond themselves because that will help make our community and the world a better place,” said Thomas.

Editor’s note: There are a number of ways to help support the Vision Resource Center through donations of time or money. For more information visit www.visionresourcecentercc.org/ or call 910-483-2719.



Latest Articles

  • A body of work: Local fighter competes in Carolina Gloves South Boxing Tournament
  • College of Medicine will benefit community
  • Gallery 208: The Ocean World of Ivy Rittenhouse
  • June lineup is ready to rock Campbellton Landing
  • Library summer reading program open to all ages
  • Publisher's Pen: Best of Fayetteville: 26 years and getting better
Up & Coming Weekly Calendar

Advertise Your Event: