Gentrify or Die?

Gentrify or Die?
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

I saw Tuesday morning from the Fayetteville Flyer that it’s possible a high-end Taco Bell “cantina” may be moving into the space that used to house Common Grounds on Dickson Street.

The cantina style for the fast-food restaurant serves alcohol and tapas-inspired food in addition to the main menu items.

While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, the reports in the article made it pretty clear that’s what’s going to happen.

So it’s kind of odd to headline this piece about Fayetteville “Gentrify or Die” because we’re a seriously affordable city to live in for the U.S. Sure, Dickson Street is our entertainment district, and naturally rent is at its peak for that area.

The thing is though, our area has been developing at a lightning-quick pace. Each year, the university brings in record-breaking amounts of college students, apartment complexes are built year-round, and more and more businesses are popping up around town. We keep getting added to “Best places to live in the U.S.” lists. That’s obviously great for us in the long run. But there’s an unfortunate side effect that comes along with such goings on:

The rent gets to be too damn high.

The property that Common Grounds housed was sold for $1.3 million, and at 3,310-square-feet for the property, that’s about $392 per square foot. With rent like that, that pretty much excludes any chances for a local business to move in. It essentially only leaves room for a corporate giant like Yum! Brands to move in with a Taco Bell.

As cool as it would have been for a local business — or hell, even just an original idea — to move in to that spot, the reality is our town is growing, and with that comes big money. Big money does things that make big money.

The news of a new Taco Bell in downtown spread pretty quickly through local social media, and most everybody was pretty bummed about the news or condemned the Doritos-tacos magnate for wanting to move to the primo Dickson spot.

A lot of people are concerned it’ll be steep competition (hardly) for the beloved Los Bobos taco cantina up the street. Many people said they want to do something about it.

Despite all the controversy, I get it though. Taco Bell will make a killing at that location. Dickson Street hosts a lot of college kids and out-of-towners. They’ll go to what they know. Taco Bell sells super cheap food that a lot of drunk people like to indulge in. It’s practically a national pastime to get wasted and hit up T-Bell later that night.

One of the poorer neighborhoods in town, south Fayetteville, is also well on its way to becoming a gentrified place. Soon, a Walmart Neighborhood Market will be finished near the MLK and School Avenue intersection, providing an anchor point for more businesses to soak up the new consumer flow in that area.

I live in south Fayetteville, and I can’t say I’m displeased about it. I’m definitely concerned about the rent of the apartment I live in going out of my budget. Gentrification has its many downsides like that, but it also means growth and shiny new stuff. I’m not going to take the high road here, I like shiny new stuff — like most people do.

But hear me out, I absolutely love and care about the rich character and quality of the local businesses in Fayetteville, each one more quirky and unique than the others. It’s what people always tell me they like about here. Well, that and the restaurant patios. I prefer to always spend my dollars at local businesses when I can.

I hate to see the rent push out the mom and pop shops that legitimize the Fayetteville community just as much as the next person. We’re certainly still doing alright in the local scene, but seeing something as financially giant as a Taco Bell in the heart of downtown Fayetteville seems pretty symbolic for winds of change.

Meanwhile, Block Street just keeps getting cooler and cooler.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Commentary