Renaissance may be too strong a word, but the commercial core of Fayetteville — from the downtown area to the historic Haymount District — is in the process of a significant transformation.
Projects underway include the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, renovations to Cape Fear Regional Theatre and a new multipurpose events center to replace the aging Crown Theatre and Crown Arena that may be located downtown.
There also is discussion about an African American museum downtown and a gathering place for food trucks in Haymount.
“We’ve got a lot of good things happening in Haymount,” said Johnny Dawkins, who represents the neighborhood on the Fayetteville City Council.
The $80 million Civil War history center will be built off Arsenal Avenue at the intersection of Hay Street and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway and will become part of the state-supported Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. Proponents say it would be the first state-supported museum in the nation to provide an interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction era from the perspective of an entire state.
Cape Fear Regional Theatre, which has entertained audiences since 1962, is in the midst of a $16 million renovation and expansion that will upgrade the building for decades to come. The last time the building was renovated was in 1988.
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners has identified three potential sites for a new multipurpose events center, a project that has the working title Crown Event Center. Downtown is among the possible locations.
The Crown theater and arena are expected to close in November 2025.
Here’s a closer look at these projects:
N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center
The initial phase of the history center, the VanStory History Village, is complete thanks to funding from the state. Three Civil War and Reconstruction era homes were restored and transformed to use for educational programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and for research and scholarship by students and faculty members of colleges and universities.
David Winslow, the senior consultant for the Civil War history center, said organizers are ready to move forward with Phase 2, construction of an outdoor education pavilion. A boardwalk is expected to be laid along the ruins of a former federal arsenal, and parking will be added to accommodate school buses.
The history center is designed to be an education center rather than a collecting museum, according to the history center’s website.
The project, Winslow says, has received an initial $29.8 million in state funding, and the second and final allocation of $29.8 million is anticipated in August for construction of a 60,000-square-foot main building. A groundbreaking for the new history center was planned for June 2.
In addition to private donations, Winslow says the city and Cumberland County are significant partners in helping get the museum up and running.
“We want to make sure we’ve got good numbers,” Winslow says, noting the nationwide rise in the cost of construction supplies in recent years.
He said no decision has been made on what will happen to the Museum of the Cape Fear facilities.
Once the Civil War & Reconstruction History Center is complete, Winslow says, “it will certainly mean more activity in the area. We’re projecting visitation between 75,000 to 130,000 a year visiting the site and museum and history center.’’
The Urban Land Triangle Institute did a study on the impact of the history center and how to make Haymount more pedestrian-friendly, Winslow says.
City officials requested that the institute convene a panel focused on “creating a more vibrant mixed-use Fayetteville neighborhood (Haymount) being catalyzed by the proposed Civil War history center.”
An executive study in the report says downtown Fayetteville has undergone transformational redevelopment over the past decade. Just beyond the central business district, it reads, Haymount is a popular neighborhood with historic homes and neighborhood commercial properties and “is a logical step in the emergence of Fayetteville’s urban core as a live, work, play environment.”
“We have been giving it a lot of thought — how to best integrate with the neighborhood and just be good citizens,” Winslow says.
He anticipates that construction on the main building of the history center will begin in the third quarter of 2023.
“It’s going to bring in $18 to $20 million a year in new economic activity,” Winslow says. “That’s the kind of stuff people would like to have. It’s economic development. It will be a net positive bringing outside money into the area. What we’re trying to do with the museum is draw people off Interstate 95 and bring in money here.
“Anything that increases the tax value and tax space is good for Fayetteville,’’ he says.
Cape Fear Regional Theatre
Plans to renovate Cape Fear Regional Theatre were announced in late February.
In 2021, the theater began replacing old seating with luxury chairs and installed a custom sound system. That initial phase of renovation cost $1 million and included new carpeting and the addition of handrails on the lower half of the theater.
The second phase of work, which would cost a projected $15 million, is expected to get underway in the summer of 2023 and will be what theater advocates say is a reimagining of the building as a whole.
“It’s not often our administrators get rock ’n’ roll applause,” says Ella Wrenn, managing director of the theater. “We announced our renovation plans to core supporters.”
The initial phase of work on the 22,484-square-foot theater was completed while the theater was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The theater has reached $9.5 million of its $15 million goal for the second phase, Wrenn says. The state has earmarked a one-time direct grant of $5 million.
“We talk a lot about the Haymount area being sort of a vanguard to downtown,” Wrenn says. “It’s how a lot of people enter downtown. It does feel there is an effort to bridge the two places together. So increasing the attractability and visual aesthetic of the area and making it more functional and more walkable will only help expand the time that people want to spend here and downtown. We all know the more time you spend, the more you consume. Also, the more money you spend.”
She says the renovations and expansion will only increase the visibility of the theater, making it more attractive to Fayetteville’s highly transient residents.
“I see, I think, a momentum to the start of a redesign and beautifying, if you will, the downtown area,” Wrenn says. “And that is one of the things that was attractive to me about moving here. I think there are things happening here that would make it a stronger driving district. Part of that is walkability. The intersection out in front of the theater is really tough. And so I think increasing how easily you can move through this area makes it more compelling.”
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners plans to build a 2,500-seat multipurpose events center that is expected to cost no more than $82.5 million. The Crown Event Center would be used for concerts, comedy shows, Broadway productions and other shows.
“Right now, we’re the only county in the state of North Carolina with over 300,000 people that doesn’t have a performing arts center or a center like this,” says Jimmy Keefe, a member of the board who also sits on the Cumberland County Crown Event Committee.
The centers that will be replaced are over 60 years old.
“I believe the community deserves this. One of the things that came out of the feasibility study done by CSL last summer was that the community can support this. The community can finance this without additional tax revenue,” Keefe says. “Most importantly, we shifted from a traditional performing arts center to this multipurpose type of event center that, by and large, the study shows this can support itself, which is very uncommon in these types of facilities. The reason it can, it will allow us to not so much compete with maybe the Durhams and the Raleighs and other places, but it also gives a different type of new large-scale venue that they can have here that they can’t have in some of those other places, like a traditional performing arts center.”
The committee is moving forward on the project to replace the theater and arena at the Crown Coliseum Complex.
The committee voted April 20 to accept the framework presented by the county’s consultant for site selection, design and construction.
“Aside from the obvious, an arts and entertainment venue (would have) options that it gives people here,” Keefe says. “Also, economically, it helps the businesses that are around the center. It could increase development around the center. But I don’t think you can put a number on the image that it’s going to create in our community, just like Segra Stadium did. When you are looking to bring companies in or individuals into your community, they’re looking at quality-of-life things to share with your family.”
Several other proposals for downtown and Haymount have been floated in recent months. They include an African American museum, a project that remains in the early stages. The museum would incorporate history with theater, music and spoken-word programs.
And a business team plans to bring the former Hamont Auto Repair shop on Broadfoot Avenue back to life as a food-truck court.
Jordan Sherrod, a 39-year-old active-duty soldier who closed on the property in June 2021, co-owns it with Chris Beaty. Haymount Truck Stop would be a retail hybrid of food-truck court, arcade and bar.