Long-term plan for Walker-Stone House still unknown

A sculpture by Portuguese multimedia artist Bordalo II entitled “Dear, Half Deer” stands on the grounds of the historic Walker-Stone House in downtown Fayetteville as part of the recent Green Candy public art event hosted by Experience Fayetteville, the city’s tourism department.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The historic Walker-Stone House will serve as a temporary resource for existing events until a committee can come up with a permanent use for the building.

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, which purchased the home in 2016, had discussed moving the Convention and Visitors Bureau offices from the downtown square into the historic structure at 207 W. Center St. That idea was scrapped earlier this year.

Other options have included turning the home into an attraction or an event space, or leasing it to an outside group.

All of those options would require a significant investment, according to Executive Director Molly Rawn, who on Monday reminded commissioners of their recent decision to give TheatreSquared $200,000 each year for the next 15 years to help the local theatre company build a new performance venue.

Rawn said converting the home into an attraction, such as a museum, would require more full-time staff, annual financial resources, and at least a year of planning to fully develop marketing and programming ideas.

If the A&P were to lease the house to either an outside group or to a non-profit to manage it as a tourist attraction, Rawn said the commission could generate some revenue, but likely not a net positive.

“I don’t know if this meets our mission or if being landlords is the best use of our resources,” she said. “It certainly would require a shifting of staff duties if not additional staff.”

Staff have also considered operating the home as an event space for weddings and meetings, but said that idea would require a significant capital investment, more full-time staff, and several months of renovation work.

“At this point, the Advertising and Promotion Commission is not in a position financially or operationally to execute any of these (ideas),” Rawn said.

She suggested the commission temporarily use the home as a satellite location for existing events like First Thursday, Lights of the Ozarks, and Clinton House Museum programs, while continuing to allow pop-up functions like the recent Fenix Fayetteville artist exhibitions and the Green Candy public art event.

Commissioners agreed and also approved Rawn’s idea to assemble a committee to come up with a long-term plan for the house. It would made up of commission leadership, city staff, community leaders and historic preservation professionals. Rawn said the committee will be formed by the end of the year.