'Better for business': Fayetteville could soon have its own social district by the end of the year

ByMonique John via WTVD logo
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Fayetteville may soon have its own social district--an area where people can openly consume alcohol in a designated area.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fayetteville may soon have its own social district--an area where people can openly consume alcohol in a designated area.

Business owners and city officials have been working on that effort as Raleigh and a number of other cities have launched their own social districts throughout the state.

Organizers behind the effort at non-profit Cool Spring Downtown District, say the big objective is to draw more commerce and foot traffic to the urban core. They want to give businesses a boost in coming back strong after COVID, about two dozen businesses in Fayetteville could get involved if a social district is implemented.

"We have beautiful 20-foot wide sidewalks here in downtown Fayetteville so there's plenty of room to walk and enjoy the streetscape," said Bianca Shoneman, the president and CEO of Cool Spring Downtown District. "But now you're going to be able to take all of your beverages with you when you do so."

Conversation about a social district began around September 2021 to enliven downtown Fayetteville. That's when a state bill was passed to push the use of entertainment to help social districts thrive.

Since then, Cool Spring Downtown District has been championing the idea.

"We have seen that most of these businesses have done a significant job of recovering post-COVID. Nonetheless, though, is remind people that it is entirely important for them to use their dollars locally instead of on the interwebs," Shoneman said.

The proposed district would be a half-mile area including Hay Street, Russell Street, Mason Street and Winslow Street. Last month, Fayetteville's city council voted to allow residents to weigh in on the proposal in a public hearing on October 24. With the idea appearing to be popular, a Cool Spring survey found that over 70 percent of local businesses that responded expressed their support for a social district.

Raleigh launched its social district pilot program in August, and so far business owners say it's been a success.

"We haven't seen any issues because of the social district," said Kelsey Holland, the general manager of Sir Walter Coffee. "If anything, it's just been better for business, and I'm sure other business owners feel the same way."

Cool Spring organizers hope to replicate that success in Fayetteville.

"What cities are trying to do for their retailers, their independent retailers, is they're saying, 'we want you to stay in our community, we want your business to thrive in our community, and we want to create an atmosphere that promotes a sense of joy and happiness and flexibility for your consumer,'" Shoneman said. "And so these policies are being implemented across the nation and Fayetteville is just in lockstep with other great cities doing the same thing to create a more livable community."

If the proposal is well-received during the hearing later this month, Cool Spring hopes to launch the social district by December 1st.

Fayetteville isn't the only city where this is up for discussion. On Thursday, city leaders in Durham are scheduled to hear a presentation on creating a social district in their city.