First, there was the housing bubble, then the real estate crunch and finally the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It all added up to a frightening picture of a market in trouble.
So it might come as a surprise that the Fayetteville Regional Association of Realtors posted its second-best year on record with a total sales volume just over $1 billion. It came close to the record set the year before when Fayetteville first crossed the billion-dollar mark with 5,708 new and existing homes sold for a total value of $1.2 billion.
Though the housing market continues to suffer in many parts of the country, builders, developers, real estate agents and buyers all point to one place that has helped protect Fayetteville and Cumberland County in these shaky times: Fort Bragg.
Henry Spell is president of the Realtors association. “We’ve been a different kind of market for a very long time,” he says. When people talk about doom and gloom, Spell shows them the numbers. “The years 2006 and 2007 tell us that’s a big, bold-faced lie.”
And real estate, construction and development are expected to thrive thanks to Fort Bragg or more specifically, the growth that BRAC – Base Realignment and Closure – will bring to the post.
By 2013, the U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command will relocate to Fort Bragg bringing with them thousands of soldiers, civilians and families – 25,600 new residents in all. The BRAC Regional Task Force says that demand for housing will grow by 2,628 rental units and 4,059 ownership units in Cumberland County during the next six years. In a survey, nearly 90 percent of FORSCOM personnel said they plan to buy their next home.
BRAC has already brought a homebuyer to at least one builder. Buzz Loyd recently sold a villa to an Army captain. “Fayetteville has been unique in this downturn,” Loyd said. “Fort Bragg insulates us from anything in the outside world, if you will.”
Any slowdown in the economy here, he said, is related to the fact that many troops have been deployed overseas. But many builders complained of a slump. Some said Cumberland County had a housing glut. Greg West said home building did slow down in the last half of 2007 because buyers became jittery after news broke about the housing crisis in other cities. But he says building has picked up in 2008. Families moving to Fayetteville, he said, will have plenty of options.
West is a real estate agent, a member of the Home Builders Association of Fayetteville and a member of the Cumberland County Board of Education. “From a housing standpoint, we’re ready (for BRAC),” he says. But some of it is a guessing game of where families will live or send their children to school. Cumberland County is already building new schools for current growth: a new elementary school on Gillis Hill Road, a new middle school near Gray’s Creek High School, where neighborhoods like Braxton Farms sprout and existing ones such as Cypress Lakes continue to thrive.
New subdivisions are on the rise. In the western parts of the county, about 700 lots have been approved for development. Parker’s Ridge alone, off Century Circle, totals about 300 lots. Gates Four, near Hope Mills, is expanding with new homes and a second entrance.
On the other side of Cumberland County, Interstate 295 is drawing more people to North Fayetteville with planned expansion at King’s Grant and work at The Cottages at North Ramsey well under way. The new highway draws more people to Eastover and the RiverBluff condominiums overlooking the Cape Fear River.
Even downtown Fayetteville is going to see an influx of families when all of the townhouses and condominiums at 300 Hay are complete.
And, of course, we can’t forget about commercial real estate.
One of the biggest projects was announced at the end of 2007 when word came about plans for The Avenue Cross Creek, an upscale shopping center on Glensford Drive. The project has fueled speculation about the chances of a Fresh Market, a high-end grocery store, coming to town. And in the first quarter of this year, permits were filed for a new Lowe’s in west Fayetteville, an athletic building at Village Baptist Church and a Chic-Fil-A on Ramsey Street.
Loyd says Fayetteville has become a hot spot for medical practices. He is building a 68,000 square-foot building on Robeson Street for Fayetteville Cardiology with plans for another two practices on Walter Reed Road near the All-American Freeway. Regency Homes Inc. plans to build Rayconda Internal Medicine.
Loyd says he’s proud of the role the building community has had in Fayetteville’s growth. But it’s more than bricks and mortar. “Without the development community, that growth would not have been possible,” he said. “It has provided more civic and cultural activities for people who live here.”
And with BRAC, that growth is sure to continue. The Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a town hall meeting to help Cumberland County communities prepare for the changes. The initiative is called the Pathways to Possibilities. A 20-member steering committee has been appointed to hear feedback and gather ideas from a community meeting set for May 8 at the Eastover Community Center. An economic summit is scheduled for August. The growth at Fort Bragg, Spell said, “It’s certainly going to have the largest effect … that’s ever happened to this community.”