City leaders should nix Dickson Street pact
The developer of a proposed five-story hotel at the northwest corner of Dickson and West is talking with the city about trading the north part of his land to the city of Fayetteville in exchange for the footprint of the proposed West Street parking garage. In return, the city will trade to the developer a strip of Dickson Street frontage on the north end of the Walton Arts Center parking lot.
So far, the developer also wants "air rights" over the historic train depot building and the freight building currently housing Arsaga's. They've stated that unless they have a guarantee they can build the hotel, they won't settle on this deal.
Folks, it is past time for the city to walk away from this developer and the whole idea of a hotel and parking garage on this corner.
The entire premise stinks. It's not about the developer's egregious plan on a prized piece of real estate, although it is that. It's not about the city seriously considering a questionable public land giveaway.
It's that these two Dickson Street frontage properties should not become a five-story hotel and perhaps also a multi-story mixed-use or commercial building across the street, all sharp and shiny, looming over one- and two-story, 100-year-old historical structures.
So far the wisdom of city leaders has successfully juggled the two forces at play on Dickson -- preservation and development -- by keeping the Legacy building to a location a block north of Dickson and behind the existing historical row. They compromised too much on the Dickson building, even more massive than the Legacy. But that spot had already been compromised by the Underwood Building and its modern styling.
Not so the corner of West and Dickson. This is a landmark corner. This is where the football team and half the student body carried the goal post after beating Tennessee in 1999, or back in 1981 when the defeat of No. 1 Texas resulted in a huge bonfire at that corner. Parades have started here. Since 1983, Springfest has centered here. This is the street that connects town with the university, the town's primary industry.
Dickson Street has been a historical landmark, a place in time for university students, faculty and townies alike. It's more than real estate. It's a place for musicians and artists to display their talents to the world. It's a place where all generations and all segments of society mingle.
It's that interaction that the arts corridor hopes to capitalize on. So why allow a building twice as tall as the Walton Arts Center to block the view of Old Main?
Why don't city leaders recognize tall shiny boxes are not compatible with the arts corridor?
I believe a five-story structure -- or two-- at that corner will kill the spirit of the street. It is not in the city's best interest. The city should build its parking lot on School on land the public already owns.
West ForkCommentary on 02/13/2020
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