FAYETTEVILLE -- The train branch of the Bank of Fayetteville will close permanently at the end of September, according to a note posted on the door.
The note says the "train bank" at the northeast corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue will shut its doors at 5 p.m. Sept. 29. The Bank of Fayetteville is a division of Farmers & Merchants Bank.
"We look forward to serving you at any of our Fayetteville locations," the note says. "In addition to local and online banking, you are able to access your accounts at any Farmers and Merchants Bank or The Bank of Fayetteville branch across the state."
The note directs customers with questions to contact the bank by email at [email protected] or by calling (479)442-1223.
Brad Chambless, president and chief executive officer of the bank, wrote a letter dated June 29 to customers about the branch closing. In the letter, Chambless references how the train branch lies within the city's cultural arts corridor, which is in development, known as the Ramble.
"Redevelopment of the train branch site is an important part of the city's plans to increase tourism and provide more amenities for the Fayetteville community," Chambless says in the letter. "We continue to support business development and growth to ensure our city is a desirable place to live and work. We hope you will join us in welcoming this positive change and direction for Fayetteville."
Susan Norton, chief of staff to Mayor Lioneld Jordan, said the part of the lot that includes the train branch isn't part of the city's plans for the arts corridor. The city paid Bank of Fayetteville $100,000 in 2021 for a small portion of the property north of the bank to have enough room to build a new 301-space parking deck that is under construction.
The city also paid property owners Greg House and Ted Belden $250,000 for the rest of the space to build the deck. As part of the deal, House and Belden will be able to build and own a sixth and seventh floor for private use.
House and Belden's Ramble North LLC, bought the train bank property for more than $2.4 million at the end of June, according to Washington County property records online. House and Belden are planning to build a hotel on the property, immediately south of the deck. The pair owns the portion of the lot immediately west, which includes the former train depot and freight buildings. They sold the north portion of the lot to the city to build the deck.
At a groundbreaking for the deck in January 2022, House said the bank wanted a presence within the hotel building, and that the developers and bank leaders were considering options.
House said Tuesday buying the train property made planning for the hotel easier. Space is tight on the property and the hotel will need room for guests to load in and out and have enough room for trash pickup. Bank leadership agreed to the purchase price and decided to close the branch, he said.
House and Belden now own the train itself, in addition to the land. The pair has talked with architects for the planned hotel about possibly incorporating the train into the building. House said he is open to ideas.
Negotiation has been ongoing with a hotel partner, House said.
The parking deck is scheduled to open to the public in late September. It will replace the 290 spaces lost once the parking lot west of the Walton Arts Center becomes the civic plaza of the arts corridor.
The train bank is a vintage passenger car and a former Cotton Belt wooden caboose, still sitting on old railroad tracks, according to RoadsideAmerica.com, an online guide to offbeat tourist attractions. Property records indicate Bank of Fayetteville bought the land for the train branch for $140,000 in 1996.