The revitalization of downtown Fayetteville‚ with new public spaces and historic building renovations‚ is creating an unprecedented demand for lofts and other urban living options. The trend is helping fuel one of the hottest housing markets the region has seen‚ with countywide home vacancy rates at less than 2 percent.
“Fayetteville’s image has changed tremendously with the downtown revitalization‚” says Mitchell Graham‚ an agent with Townsend Real Estate and a director of the Fayetteville Association of Realtors. The upswing in renovation projects and public investments‚ such as the new Festival Park‚ has created an appealing neighborhood atmosphere with plenty of entertainment and shopping nearby. When living spaces downtown become available‚ they don’t stay on the market long. “We actually need more existing home listings than we have on the market‚” Graham says. “There’s a lot of new construction on the market‚ but it’s out in the county. There’s less in the city‚ and we need more.” In June 2007‚ Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine named Fayetteville as the second-best city in the country for young professionals‚ and affordability was cited as one of the crucial factors in making up the list. The average price for an existing home in Cumberland County was slightly more than $110‚000 in 2006‚ Graham says. “Home prices are much higher around the country‚” he adds. “The cost of living is just less here.” In fact‚ recent statistics show that Cumberland County home prices are nearly 20 percent below the national average‚ the Cumberland County Business Council reports.
Yet the market remains strong. “We don’t see any bubbles in Cumberland County and the Fayetteville area‚ probably because of Fort Bragg‚” Graham says. The massive military base helps stimulate the economy and spurs real estate transactions with its highly mobile workforce. Some 25‚000 new residents will be added to the regional population of more than 550‚000 when Forces Command at Fort McPherson‚ Ga.‚ relocates personnel to Fort Bragg over the next four years. “As one general put in‚ [the economic impact] would be like a Wal-Mart home office coming to Cumberland County‚” Graham says. Even with tight market conditions‚ home shoppers still have a lot to choose from.
New downtown lofts are attracting single professionals‚ while families with children may opt for suburban developments or older neighborhoods near downtown‚ such as Haymount‚ where historical architecture mixes with new homes. Kirk deViere‚ the former chairman of the Cumberland County Business Council‚ has lived in downtown Fayetteville since 2001.
“I had lived in downtown Savannah and saw the potential the downtown has‚ and I wanted to be a part of it in Fayetteville‚” deViere says. “What better way to do that than to live there?” Downtown residents are a mix of young professionals‚ entrepreneurs‚ military personnel and families‚ he adds. To date‚ about 30 loft living spaces are occupied downtown‚ and more are on the way. “Slowly but surely‚ the footprint of residential living is expanding‚” deViere says. The 300 Block Project on Hay Street and adjacent streets will add about 40 more lofts and townhouses. They are expected to be available for sale in fall 2007.
Other plans call for additional renovations to older buildings that would incorporate lofts‚ apartments and townhomes. “You add in the arts and culture‚ places to eat‚ places to shop and entertainment that’s down there – it becomes a vibrant downtown‚ and people want to be a part of it and live down there‚” deViere says.