Publisher’s note: In this edition of Up & Coming Weekly, we introduce Mark Regensburger, the first president and CEO of the new Cool Springs Downtown District in downtown Fayetteville. We welcome him to this new position and look forward to supporting the CSDD and the merchants, businesses and organizations in downtown Fayetteville. Their success is everyone’s success. We want our readers to know that Up & Coming Weekly, your community newspaper, intends to be downtown Fayetteville’s No. 1 champion. As an established and trusted media source, we will carry downtown Fayetteville’s quality-of-life story to Fort Bragg and to all corners of Cumberland County. Lauren Vanderveen, a wonderful new contributing writer for our publication, will help cover these stories. Enjoy meeting Mr. Regensburger, and thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
An arts and entertainment district is essential to any city that yearns for a defined personality. A city needs a space that screams: This is our soul, this is who we are! Some areas are lucky enough to have population sizes that support growth in their art districts, like in New York City or Los Angeles. Some even host prestigious events such as the Toronto International Film Festival or SXSW in Austin. But more than just money and prestige allows an arts district to thrive. First, it needs a leader.
Fayetteville now has one in Mark Regensburger. In July, he was appointed the first president and CEO of the nonprofit organization Cool Springs Downtown District Inc., an official rebranding strategy for downtown.
It all began with a suggestion to the Arts Council that Fayetteville distinguishes itself with a performing arts center. After many months of research and planning by the Arts Council and a 200-member advisory committee, the Arts Council recommended that first establishing a prominent arts and entertainment district would be a natural springboard for a performing arts center in the area.
The Arts and Entertainment District report from August of last year noted, “There is the perception that the City of Fayetteville has not kept pace with other urban areas within the state of North Carolina. Fayetteville was late in recognizing that the role of placemaking is key to creating the kind of vibrant urban life that will attract and retain the creative workforce which, in turn, will attract and retain the creative businesses that are the foundations of the modern economy.”
For Regensburger, one of his main goals is to unify the various organizations in the area for future collaborations. The Airborne Museum Foundation currently does Airborne Day and other military-re
lated events. A group from Capitol Encore Academy is working on the art park located behind the academy. The Arts Council provides 4th Friday and other events to the entire county. “I see all these organizations doing amazing things by themselves,” Regensburger said. “But the Cool Springs Downtown District is trying to bring more people together to make their efforts greater than the sum of their parts.”
According to Regensburger, CSDD will be looking into several avenues to establish downtown as an arts and entertainment district. This includes increasing public art installations and bringing better quality music performances to the area. Regensburger also hopes to widen downtown’s umbrella to envelop the thousands of new military families that move to Fayetteville each year.
“The district is more than just Hay Street. I don’t want downtown to be just a downtown thing. I want everybody to feel like they own it,” said Regensburger.
CSDD will also, according to Regensburger, investigate city ordinances and licensing requirements to improve the district’s regulatory environment. Another recommendation of the Arts and Entertainment District report was that “the wayfinding system in the central core should be adapted, perhaps using artists as designers, to clearly distinguish the District.” There are also recommendations to eventually have a new urban skateboard park and new artist housing, along with a performing arts center.
Regensburger himself has an extensive history with Fayetteville, the military and the arts. After receiving his degree in music education from Alma College, he decided to join the United States Army as a musician in 1985. He played clarinet in the Army’s band, where he was able to parlay extensive experience in event management.
“I first came to Fort Bragg in 1999. My midlife crisis was I volunteered to jump out of airplanes,” Regensburger joked. “My tour in Afghanistan was a (literal) tour in Afghanistan. We went around and played for the troops. To see what the arts can do to help people find their heart again is a huge part of what this new job is for me.”
Regensburger went on to get his master’s in business administration from the Lake Forest Graduate School in Illinois before he started working as the executive director and COO of the Saginaw Baw Symphony Orchestra in Michigan.
“It was a wonderful opportunity and really got my feet into being a nonprofit manager,” Regensburger said.
He was so efficient, in fact, that he admits to having planned himself out of his job.
“We did some strategic planning and decided that the board would take a more active role in the leadership of it and that we would hire specialty people in marketing, finance and fundraising,” Regensburger said.
“Mark’s palpable enthusiasm, knowledge of Fayetteville, business training and arts background will drive the vision of an Arts and Entertainment District for our entire, inclusive community,” said Eric Lindstrom, CSDD Inc. Board chair, in a press release.
For the past seven years, following his retirement from the Army, Regensburger has taught business administration at Fayetteville Technical Community College. He said he developed a growing urge to help the community in an even more significant way. After traveling for an average of 100 days per year and after experiencing many different cities, Regensburger and his wife chose Fayetteville as their place to call home. Now the city of Fayetteville has chosen him to lead downtown into a brighter future.
“The arts and entertainment district is supposed to be walkable, but also a combination of urban space and green space. It’s supposed to be a combination of historic and contemporary, of working and celebrating,” Regensburger said. “So, I believe in this. I wouldn’t have done this job just for a job. To me, this really feels like a calling.”
PHOTO: Mark Regensburger, first president and CEO of Cool Springs Downtown District Inc., wants to unify local organizations for future collaborations.