No decision yet on West Avenue parking lot development

A design sketch shows what a new, mixed-use building might look like near the corner of West Avenue and Spring Street in downtown Fayetteville.

Source: City of Fayetteville / Reindl Properties, Robert Sharp Architect

A debate over what to do with the West Avenue parking lot is on hold for at least two weeks.

Aldermen on Tuesday agreed to table a proposal to sell a sliver of land on the southern end of the city-owned property, which is sometimes referred to as the Walton Arts Center parking lot.

The proposal, from local developer Brian Reindl and longtime Fayetteville architect Rob Sharp, calls for construction of a five-story residential and commercial building made of stone and brick, reminiscent of Sharp’s Three Sisters project on Dickson Street. The project would include an arched tunnel to allow Frisco Trail to pass through the middle of the building, and would re-route the trail out of the current parking lot and away from vehicular traffic. The building’s footprint would cover 58 parking spaces, but Sharp said all lost parking spaces would be replaced with on-street spaces along West Avenue.

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Reindl’s offer includes $337,440 for purchase of the land, and about $87,000 for construction of the on-street parking.

A mixed-use development on the southern end of the lot is an idea that was first envisioned in 2004 when the city’s Downtown Master Plan was drawn up and adopted. The document also calls for the eventual construction of liner buildings along the northern and eastern edges of the lot, but Reindl and Sharp’s proposal deals only with the southern portion of the property.

The proposal comes several months after the City Council agreed to consider ideas for the lot. At the time, some council members said they might want to wait until an ongoing transportation and parking study is complete before entertaining formal offers for development of the property.

Ward 2 Alderman Matthew Petty said he’s still in favor of waiting to develop the majority of the lot, but told council members Tuesday that Reindl and Sharp’s project was “too compelling” to pass up.

Petty said their proposal solves a safety issue with the trail while helping manifest a longtime city planning goal, all without any loss of parking. He said selling the land would more than pay back the cost of the parking portion of the study and would provide property tax revenue for area schools. Plus, he said, selling a small section of the lot would give the council a chance to test the idea of developing the lot while still maintaining about 2 acres of land for future improvements.

Petty said while the entire transportation study won’t be ready until sometime next year, critical pieces of the work – including a parking demand analysis – are set to be completed within the next month.

Despite all the talk about Reindl’s plan, the decision at hand is not whether to accept the developer’s offer, but rather to entertain official purchase offers for the property as required by city code. In other words, if Petty’s resolution is approved, it’s possible other offers could surface.

Residents who spoke about the proposal Tuesday were on both sides of the issue.

Sarah Sparks Diebold, who spoke on behalf of the Dickson Street Merchants Association, and Barbara Taylor, who serves on the Walton Arts Center Council, both said the city should hold off on any action until the entire parking study is complete.

Hunter Haynes, who has expressed interest in developing the entire lot, questioned the price being offered for the land and said the council should consider proposals for the entire lot instead of giving special consideration to a small portion of the property.

Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, applauded the proposal and said now that the economy has recovered, the council should give strong consideration to mixed-use developments in the Entertainment District, especially those that are parking neutral. He said he sees no reason why the city shouldn’t entertain offers for a small piece of property that could have a lasting, positive impact on the area.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Marsh agreed and said putting more residents and businesses downtown should be a top priority for the city.

Ward 4 Alderman John La Tour said he was excited to see a proposal for a public-private partnership and told the council that some offers are worth moving on quickly instead of waiting to see if better ideas arise.

Ward 3 Alderman Justin Tennant said the project might be exactly what the area needs, but he isn’t convinced that it has to occur now. He said the opinions of the Dickson Street Merchants Association members shouldn’t be taken lightly, and added that he might even want to wait until November to see what effects the expanded Walton Arts Center will have on the area before making a decision.

Petty asked the other aldermen to table the issue until next month when the preliminary findings of the parking study are released. The group unanimously agreed to postpone the discussion until the next regular council meeting on July 5.

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Source: City of Fayetteville / Reindl Properties, Robert Sharp Architect

Source: City of Fayetteville / Reindl Properties, Robert Sharp Architect

Source: City of Fayetteville / Reindl Properties, Robert Sharp Architect

Source: City of Fayetteville / Reindl Properties, Robert Sharp Architect