Parking deck design (looking northwest) / Olsson, Inc.
Fayetteville City Council members voted 6-1 to approve a contract to build a parking deck off Dickson Street to replace the parking lot that’s set to be redeveloped as part of the Cultural Arts Corridor project.
The council discussed the contract for months, tabling it several times while city officials negotiated the details of the project.
Fayetteville voters in 2019 approved a $31.6 million bond package for the arts corridor that includes $10 million for the a parking deck that will replace the large lot across from the Walton Arts Center where an outdoor park and civic plaza are planned. The bond measure stipulated that redevelopment of the lot could not begin until all of the lot’s 290 parking spaces are replaced and ready for use.
The approved contract is for the purchase about one-half acre of what’s known as the Depot Lot, which is the lot across Dickson Street at the northwest corner of West Avenue where the Bank of Fayetteville’s train bank and Arsaga’s at the Depot are located.
The contract calls for the city to pay $250,000 to Greg House and Ted Belden and $100,000 to Bank of Fayetteville for the land needed to build a five-story parking deck with 330 spaces.
As part of the agreement, House and Belden will be allowed to use most of the ground floor of the deck as commercial space, with the remainder reserved for a city police substation. They will also retain an option to build up to two additional stories on top of the deck for their own use at their own expense.
A lease-to-own agreement for a fifth of an acre at the north end of the current WAC lot was part of the initial proposal, but that piece was amended Tuesday for an outright purchase of the land. The city’s plan is for House and Belden to build what officials are calling the Fayetteville Food Hall, a four-story building envisioned to house multiple culinary experiences, including options for morning, lunch, evening and after-hours dining. The developers said they couldn’t obtain financing to build the food hall with the original lease option and that they would need to own the land in order to get the money needed to construct the building.
During public comment, several people spoke in favor of the project, including Jeff Amerine of Startup Junkie, Peter Lane of the Walton Arts Center, Steve Clark of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, and Jerry Davis owner of several entertainment district businesses. There was no other public comment Tuesday.
Council members Mark Kinion and Teresa Turk have been outspoken opponents of the plan since the idea was first floated. Both said they thought the city was overcomplicating the project since all that’s really needed is a parking structure.
Kinion said he has a hard time justifying the risks of the more complicated plan, which reminds him of the city’s failed attempt at a public-private partnership at the site of the former Mountain Inn at College Avenue and Center Street.
Council Member Matthew Petty said he’d had previous concerns about the contract, but he was now in favor of the project, partially because an update to the agreement allows the city to buy back the land for food hall building if House and Belden don’t build on it within 10 years of the deck opening.
Petty said he was relieved that the negotiations went well considering that the other possible location for a deck – on School Avenue next to Kingfish bar – doesn’t provide nearly as much potential for the city.
“Why would we build a parking deck that is only used for one thing when we could share in the costs to potentially get more out of it?” Petty asked.
Council Member Sarah Bunch said she believes the city has learned from past mistakes when it comes to public-private partnerships. She said the vision is right and that she agrees with Petty in that this location provides a lot more opportunity for Fayetteville.
Turk said the 2019 public bond vote for the corridor wasn’t a landslide like the other items in the package, and she thinks it was because of the parking deck project. She said she didn’t think the city was getting a good deal, and she wouldn’t vote for the proposal. She cast the sole vote against the contract.
Council Member Sonia Gutierrez said she was skeptical about the proposed location at first because of all the details that would have to be worked out. She said she’s now satisfied with how the contract has evolved in the city’s favor.
Council Member Sloan Scroggin said he’s most excited about the food hall portion of the proposal, and that he thinks the city will be better off in 10 years because of the project.
Parking deck design (looking north) / Olsson, Inc.
Kinion said he thinks the vision for the project is excellent, but he agrees with Turk. He said he thinks voters wanted nothing more than a parking deck and this project is too complex to be consistent with that original desire. He said he is still feeling the effects of the city’s failed TIF district at the site of the former Mountain Inn. He said he wouldn’t feel comfortable voting for or against the project, so he abstained.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan said the project is important to him personally. He said he wasn’t often exposed to the arts as a child, but a visit to town to watch a play made a big impact on his life. He said supporting the arts has since been a major component of his public work.
Jordan said he knows there’s a risk of entering a public-private partnership, but putting a deck somewhere else with no potential for added opportunity does not align with his vision for what could happen on the Depot Lot and what that would mean for the entire arts corridor.
Jordan said he thinks the city has a good, strong contract in place and he’s excited to move forward.
“I think it’s the right thing to do and I think it’s the right time,” said Jordan.
The deal is set to close on April 1.
Officials said construction of the deck could begin sometime in June, and should take 12-14 months to complete.
Looking north by the colonnade / Olsson, Inc.
Transit hub plaza / Olsson, Inc.
Looking through the transit hub plaza towards Arsaga’s / Olsson, Inc.
Common space connecting the deck retail space (right) to Arsaga’s (left) / Olsson, Inc.
Common space alternate view / Olsson, Inc.