02PubPenComicConThe city of Fayetteville needs and wants a vibrant downtown. The new Astros baseball stadium and tens of millions of dollars in new construction and economic development on our doorstep bring us nearly endless opportunities. Now is the time for city officials and downtown organizations like the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, the Downtown Alliance and Cool Spring Downtown District to come together to define and solidify a joint mission and to brand downtown as a destination. It’s time to find common ground that nurtures cooperation, instills confidence and exudes enthusiasm and hospitality. 

Spending $38 million on a baseball stadium will not be enough to accomplish this. Case in point: the unfortunate closing of the Walmart store in the Murchison Road community. I’m not a Walmart shopper, nor am I a fan of its overall national corporate strategy. However, this was a national corporate entity that stepped up to solve a Fayetteville community problem after a study identified that neighborhood as a food desert. 

Walmart Inc. is savvy when it comes to corporate planning and development. Walmart built that store on the premise that not only was it needed, but it would be supported by the people of the community and serve as the economic catalyst for Fayetteville’s future development of the Murchison Road corridor. 

But in less than four years, those warm and fuzzy sound bites and politically motivated assumptions failed to materialize. 

Why? Three reasons. 

  The study was based on political bias and faulty information. There was a lack of sufficient planning. And there was no advertising, marketing or promotion. Lesson learned? We’ll see. 

Back to downtown Fayetteville and its future possibilities. Cool Spring Downtown District, a nonprofit organization under the interim direction of former Fayetteville mayor Tony Chavonne, seems to be emerging as the catalyst for promoting the history, charm and attributes of downtown Fayetteville. Most impressive is the recent hiring of a marketing professional who understands how media works and acknowledges that if we want people to come downtown, they must first be invited and have a reason for coming. 

  I say this because for the first time that I can remember, downtown Fayetteville – via the CSDD – is actively marketing and promoting Fayetteville to more than 10,000 visitors who will attend the annual Comic Con at the Crown Coliseum the weekend of Oct. 20-21. 

  Like I said, the first step is to invite them. Comic Con visitors, vendors and celebrity guests have all been invited downtown, and we are giving them a welcoming party on Saturday night at Huske Hardware House Oct. 20 from 8-10 p.m. And guess what? You are also invited! 

  We tip our hats to CSDD and the folks at Huske Hardware. This is a wonderful example of how to successfully market, promote and advertise our community. We want to invite people to visit downtown to experience our history, view our art, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. And this is a great start. 

  Congratulations to CSDD. This is the start of something good, and we are proud to be a part of it. 

  Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly. 

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