If You Build It, Will They Come?

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Residents listen to Town Center presentation. Photo/City of Fayetteville.

— Updates On Proposed Mix-Use Developments for Downtown Fayetteville —

Those of you who read my March 27, 2024 Citizen article may recall that I mentioned a 38-acre tract of land that the City of Fayetteville had purchased in 2023.

That tract of land, which abuts the rear area of the Walton Apartments by the traffic circle off of Beauregard Boulevard and extending along Grady Avenue to Georgia Highway 54, was the subject of both May 9 and 20, 2024 Town Hall meetings held at the Line Creek Bus Barn in Fayetteville City Park.

These meetings were attended by Mayor Ed Johnson, by various members of the City of Fayetteville government, the Fayette County government, and members of the public.

The plans to develop this land into an extension of downtown Fayetteville, known as Fayetteville Town Center, and the planned road extensions were revealed. This conceptual plan was addressed by Mr. Lamar Wakefield and Mr. Jeremy Hall, from the building firm Nelson Worldwide, and Fayetteville City Manager Ray Gibson.

This plan includes the construction of 50 town homes, 75 single family homes, two parking garages, a hotel, business offices, retail and restaurants. Walking trails would be included that would also connect with additional walking trails planned throughout the city where people would be able to commute by walking, biking or golf cart.

Nelson Worldwide, which describes itself as “a collective of innovators, designers and technical experts, where dreamers, thinkers and futurists converge,” is prepared to make the Fayetteville Town Center dream a reality.

Nelson Worldwide metro Atlanta projects include Fayetteville’s Trilith, Avalon and Halcyon in Alpharetta, The Gateway at South Forsyth near Cumming, and The Battery, which is connected to the Atlanta Braves Truist Park.

What these projects have in common is that they are all mixed use. They contain hotels, retail, multi- and single family homes, restaurants and entertainment centers of various types. Fayetteville Town Center would be no different.

Questions were asked about potential traffic problems, which appears to be the first area of concern for many. In addition to possible additional traffic studies, plans to address the main arteries of Georgia Highways 54 and 85, as well as Grady Avenue were discussed.

Proposals to connect the new City Center Parkway to Highway 54 West, which would also take big truck traffic heading to the transfer station on First Manassas Mile off of Grady Avenue, and extend City Center Parkway East to Highway 85 are being considered.

This extension would also cut off Beauregard Boulevard’s access to Georgia 85, and incorporate it into City Center Parkway. Because of the planned City Center Parkway extension, there are no plans to widen Grady Avenue.

The question becomes: If the local population continues to increase, will the traffic problems also increase despite these fixes?

Fayetteville Town Center is not the only downtown mixed-use development on the horizon. Meridian on the Square, also to be located in downtown Fayetteville, is still awaiting the lifting of a downtown mixed-use zoning districts moratorium. A recommended extension of this moratorium until June 7, 2024 was approved at the recent City Council meeting on Thursday, May 16.

It should be noted that even if the moratorium is extended, it can be removed with a simple vote by the City Council at any time. Since there are other high density projects, waiting to be built, such as Meridian on the Square, how are commuters going to get around the traffic challenges?

hat are the plans, if any, for circumventing the city center? The proposed extensions of City Center Parkway onto Highways 54 and 85 may not completely address that problem.

The questions many have asked are “Why is there such a need for change?” and “What about retaining Fayetteville’s small town atmosphere?” As to the various opinions expressed at both meetings, there were those who were not so much or not at all favorable to these proposed changes, while others welcomed them, stating that they were long overdue.

City officials will tell you that the city needs to become “more vibrant” as stated in the 2023 Fayetteville City Strategic Plan, and that these mixed use projects are part of this plan.

They will tell you they are not trying to urbanize Fayetteville. They will tell you we need more hotels to meet hospitality needs. They will tell you that Fayetteville is literally dying due to an ageing population. They will tell you that in order for Fayetteville to survive, it needs to attract more people, especially younger people.

They will tell you that introducing more businesses and homes to house those who work at these downtown businesses, as well as those who work at the hospital and as first responders, are what is needed to attract new residents.

But, what type of housing? Young couples and single people at the first Town Hall meeting said they could not find affordable housing, i.e., single family dwellings.

They will tell you that restaurants, bars and entertainment venues will also attract those living in Fayetteville and those who want to live there. They will tell you there will be returns by the income that is generated. They will tell you that Fayetteville’s population is already increasing, the county will grow and we need to be prepared.

What will attract people to Fayetteville or anywhere in Fayette County? Will the market be the determining factor as to who comes here income-wise? If they do build it, maybe they really will come! If so, the face of Fayetteville will change.

In the meantime, certain questions need to be asked, such as: how many homes are for sale in Fayetteville and how does a dying community have such strong home sales? Why is the answer building stacked, multi-story apartment complexes and townhomes?

Why is attracting young adults who cannot afford to purchase a home the answer? What happens when Fayette County, along with our neighboring counties, over-build multi-family housing?

How much are the current residents going to be taxed to pay for expanded infrastructure, such as roads, more police and firefighters that will be required in the future? Does the City Council really expect current residents who moved to a peaceful small town with low crime, manageable traffic and good schools to let it all go away?

We have to face up to the fact that Fayette County, as a whole, is growing. Main arteries, such as Georgia Highway 54, will require expansion in response to this growth and continued development. How we respond and act toward this inevitable growth is what is important.

When I ran for Fayetteville City Council last year, one of my campaign promises was “intelligent city growth with a supportive infrastructure, calling for minimal negative impact on neighborhoods and residents.” And that is exactly what is needed going forward.

Stay tuned for future Fayetteville Town Hall Meetings. You can also find more information at the City of Fayetteville website at fayetteville-ga.gov under Government, where you can click on to City Manager and then Town Hall Meetings. — written by Cathy Vaught of Fayetteville, Ga.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Cathy, first of all I would like to say that I wish you had won the election for city council because the current growth trajectory is the opposite of intelligent.
    I think the city is trying to bring in young people because they do not have age exemptions on their taxes, they make children whose needs will require additional money to sustain, and they are more likely to start new businesses.
    I am not opposed to more affordable housing but I am opposed to how reckless our city has been with building their infrastructure.
    2 years ago I was 29 yers old and I moved from NY to take a job working in the film industry, and put the majority of my life savings into buying a home here. Now Georgia Power is trying to cut down all of my trees and put a 180 foot tall 230 kv metal pole and transmission line in my front yard, several yards away from my home. There is an existing electrical corridor they could have used instead, or the FCDA could have put their foot down and told QTS they needed to do this through EMC. However, because the city is making so much money off of a transmission franchise with Georgia Power they are completely uninterested in helping and all I have heard from our officials is that there’s nothing we can do. They are not willing to even ask Georgia Power on our behalf why GPCs transmission siting committee that we have no visibility on could not use the existing corridor.
    I asked about utilities at this city center meeting, and sure enough Georgia Power will be supplying the power for this city center as well. I can vouche for the fact that regardless of any promise our officials may give us, if Georgia Power decides they want to condemn more property to run utilities to the new businesses they will and our city will roll over and take it and leave anyone in their path to deal with this alone.

    I am not opposed to new development if it is done by people who have true vision and interest in sustainability. The images I saw at that meeting looked like a waste of forest and I don’t think our current elected city officials and the FCDA should be allowed to develop anymore since they can’t control Georgia Power’s plans or don’t want to even try to help the people being stomped on by the business they bring in.

    As one of the young people with valuable technical skills I am probably in the demographic they were targeting, and now that every minute of the little time I have outside of my fulltime job is spent trying to inform our community and convince Georgia Power, QTS, and our city and county officials that they need to use a less destructive route I can confidently say I have never felt more repelled from a place in my life. I dream of the day I can leave and do not have to give Fayetteville a penny of my taxe dollars.

    • Georgia Power is always a very poor citizen of GA along with their stooge the Georgia Public Service Commission. They ruin the environment running power plants for decades to make a fortune. When time comes to close them down pull every trick in the book to not perform any environmental cleanup.