Economic Experts Hired To Develop Low Income Areas in City

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This article was originally posted on The Fayetteville Observer.

A team of economic development experts from Charlotte has been hired to help Fayetteville market its lower-income areas to developers.

Robert Van Geons, president and chief executive of the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation, introduced the consulting team Monday to the Fayetteville City Council at a dinner meeting before the regular council meeting.

The corporation is paying the group, which has been dubbed “The Alliance,” $70,000 as part of its contract.

The experts will be “pro-actively” marketing the city’s “Opportunity Zones” to investors.

The investors in the Opportunity Zones funds can either be invested in specific commercial projects or in infrastructure such as water and sewer in the zones.

The consultant’s work could help benefit the Murchison Road corridor, a five-mile stretch from Rowan Street to Interstate 295, which is one of the older black corridors in town that city officials say has been neglected over the years. The council has made revitalization of the corridor a top priority. 

The Murchison Road corridor from Rowan Street to Country Club Drive is one of the eight designated “Opportunity Zones” in the city. The program allows investors to reduce or eliminate the bill for capital gains taxes. The concept is that investors get federal tax breaks, while the neighborhoods get new businesses and upgraded properties.

People who have made gains in other investments — whether they are stocks or properties — can take those gains, and instead of paying taxes on them, they can invest them in these designed areas. The tax savings could add up to a portion or all of the capital gains taxes depending upon how long the money is kept in the funds.

The Alliance consultants have been in Fayetteville for the last couple of days surveying its “Opportunity Zones.”′

The group is led by Walter Davis, founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners in Charlotte, which helped provide language in 2017 that was used in the federal “Opportunity Zones” law. 

“We are here to help the city and county formulate a strategy around ‘Opportunity Zones,’” Davis said. ”‘Opportunity Zones’ are all about job creation, investing in businesses, housing.”

David said they have a good network of investors across the country who will be looking at Fayetteville’s “Opportunity Zones.”

“Part of what we’ll do is come up with a document that in essence sort of sells Cumberland County and Fayetteville and its ‘Opportunity Zones,‘” Davis said. “It’s all about the promotion.”

Also on the consulting team is Ronnie Bryant, who was the chief executive officer of the Charlotte Regional Partnership before its merger with the Charlotte Chamber.

“What we look at is overall positive community transformation,” Davis said.

Van Geons said his organization is working with the consulting team to identify the best opportunities in the “Opportunity Zones.”

“And to package them in a way that communicates effectively to the funds that this is the place to invest,” Van Geons said. “We are also developing a prospectus for the community that would be geared towards investments.”

The council, after much debate, approved of a rezoning of 12 acres of property that is slated to be the Civil War & Reconstruction History Center Foundation. The vote was 8-2 to change the zoning from mixed residential to office and institutional, which will allow some renovation work associated with the project.

Council members said they could change the zoning back if the funding doesn’t come through. Mayor Mitch Colvin and Larry Wright voted against the zoning motion.

A motion from councilman Jim Arp to hold a public hearing at a later date on the rezoning failed by a 5-5 vote. 

Several council members said they didn’t see the need for a public hearing after the zoning vote took place. But Colvin and other council members said they would like to hear what the public has to say on the project, not just the rezoning.

“This is not an endorsement to build the Civil War history center,” councilman Bill Crisp said. “This is just a straight rezoning.” 

Later in the meeting, a public hearing was scheduled for people to comment about bonds the Capitol Encore Academy wants to take out to buy its property. The academy is asking for permission to borrow up to $7.75 million to buy the building it is leasing on Hay Street from local businessmen.

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