The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 10, 2012

New commercial development proposed in Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE — Plans are under way to create a new commercial development in downtown Fayetteville, centered around the historic Ankrom-Dickerson house. The first phase of the project includes renovating the 1870s-era home and creating a new one-way street in town, “Henry Street,” lined with 29 parking spaces.

“The overall goal of the project is to help Fayetteville grow in a sustainable manner and create business opportunities for young entrepreneurs to open up businesses here,” says Fayetteville merchant Adam Stephens, the project’s developer.

The long-term vision for the Henry Street project includes new retail and office space, a multi-story commercial building with a rooftop terrace, a waterfall fountain, public art, performance space and pedestrian walkways.

“It’s about strengthening the core of Fayetteville,” says the project’s designer, Tag Galyean.

“This looks great. ... If this becomes a reality, it will be a good addition to the town of Fayetteville,” said Fayetteville Mayor Jim Akers after he and the town council were presented with plans for the development Thursday.

The Ankrom-Dickerson house sits up on a hill on South Court Street, between  Historic Fayette Theater and Hard Rock Climbing.

Stephens, who purchased the property in 2010, hopes to have two new businesses — Musical Grounds, a coffee shop, and Digital Relativity, a media company — installed in the renovated house by spring.

He also wants to work with the town to convert a strip of the property along the rear of the Board of Education building into a paved street lined with parking spaces.

Connecting Maple Avenue and Fayette Avenue, it would be known as “Henry Street,” named after Stephens’ father and grandfather.

Designer and architect Tag Galyean has worked closely with Stephens on designing a master plan for the Henry Street project. He says two things really stood out about the project that made him want to be involved.

First, he saw Stephens’ commitment to a long-term strategy — his desire that the project be a success for the town and work in concert with its comprehensive plan, which is on its way to being drafted.

“It’s rare that I see that,” says Galyean, who spoke at this summer’s Plan Fayette Sustainability Conference about his economic development efforts in Lewisburg.

Second, the property is located at the center of Fayetteville.

“That opportunity is enormously special and unique and important to support,” he says.

Besides the existent Ankrom-Dickerson house, the project design calls for a four-level building with the first floor on Fayette Avenue and the top floor at the level of the hilltop plaza. Its roof would feature an event terrace, and it would house Marathon Bikes — Stephens’ business — as well as other retail and office spaces.

Another retail and office building would be constructed on the hilltop, and the three structures would be tied together and to the adjoining streets by interconnecting pedestrian walkways. Plans call for a performance space, play fountain, and public art at a courtyard in the center of the buildings.

Other features include two dining decks and a waterfall fountain cascading from the hilltop down to Court Street before circulating back up.

“This could be a very wonderful thing that speaks to the New River. ... The more we can do with water, the more sense it makes to me,” explained Galyean.

Stephens says there’s a need for good commercial space in downtown Fayetteville, noting that because of this lack, businesses have moved into retrofitted old homes that are expensive to heat.

“Utilities are through the roof and they are not efficient to help small businesses grow,” he says.

Joe Dangerfield plans to open the Musical Grounds coffee shop in the Ankrom-Dickerson house with his wife, Amy. They envision it as a European-style coffee house specializing in premium artisan roasted coffee, espresso drinks, teas, and other goods.

“Our recipes are representative of foods we encountered on our European travels. Our concept combines a worldly yet home-like atmosphere,” says Dangerfield. “We will also sponsor several musical and educational programs for children and the community at large.”

Galyean confessed that he has “no idea” how to pay for features like a cascading waterfall fountain, at least right now, but he plans to stick with Stephens on the project and work to figure out how to accomplish its vision.

“I think we ought to get as serious about Henry Street as soon as we can,” he says. “I think that’s really key to integrating it with the rest of the town and giving life to the property.”

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