A downtown should be the heart of a city, Robert Marvin was saying in 1995.
He was the consultant commissioned to resurrect our downtown, and his credentials included nearly 50 years of bringing dying downtowns back to life, including Columbia, South Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; Calloway Gardens, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Beaufort, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Atlanta.
“I sat through a presentation by a man named Robert Marvin who was going to change downtown,” says Jimmy Keefe, a current county commissioner and former city councilman. “Although the Crown Coliseum opened in 1997, the decision to invest in the community with the facility was made years before it opened. We have not made a single investment in a major capital project that has to do with arts, entertainment, tourism or enhancing the quality of life in this community for over 20 years.”
Now, this city is negotiating to build a minor league baseball stadium downtown, hopefully with financial assistance from the county, and the county is giving consideration to a performing arts center, perhaps downtown.
“I look at these types of community investments, not so much for the addition of the structure itself, but how it can enhance the area with additional development, business opportunities and quality of life enhancement,” Keefe says. “This community has so much potential.”
He likes the idea of a baseball stadium that is being proposed adjacent to the old Prince Charles Hotel.
“I think the City Council has done a nice job of putting this together in a financially responsible way that would not rely on a tax increase,” Keefe says. “I applaud the Fayetteville City Council and the other members of the county commissioners who are giving this proposal a real objective look and see a bright future for our community.”
And when it comes to a performing arts center, Keefe champions that, too.
“I have always been an advocate for a performing arts center in an area that can enhance economic development,” Keefe says. “The performing arts center will increase land values, restaurant and retail revenue and encourage new building in the area.”
If Keefe had his druthers, he’d likely prefer a performing arts center over a baseball stadium, and with some sound insight.
“You may not like a rock show,” Keefe says. “But there’s always a country show or something else. Unlike a ‘seasonal’ facility, that 90 percent of the activity is concentrated in a five-month period,” a performing arts center would promote entertainment as “diverse as our community.”
Robert E. Marvin died in 2001 in his hometown of Walterboro, South Carolina.
He was 81.
He told us 20 years ago a downtown should be the heart of a city, and the late landscape architect would approve of the direction this city and this county seemingly are headed, be it a baseball stadium, a performing arts center … or perhaps both.
Touche, Keefe says.
“So much potential,” the commissioner says.