An innovation and small business entrepreneurship hub being developed by Fayetteville State University got a boost Monday night when the Fayetteville City Council agreed by consensus to provide $250,000 for the project.
Fayetteville State plans to transform the Bronco Square commercial development on Murchison Road into a small business hub. Chancellor Darrell T. Allison appeared before the council during its work session requesting $250,000 for the plan.
In other business, the council also agreed by consensus to support an allocation of $450,000 that will go toward phase one of a proposed African American museum that would be built downtown.
No final action was taken on those requests during the work session, but both items are expected to come back before the board for a vote during a regular monthly meeting.
FSU business hub
Council members responded to Allison’s request for help by agreeing by consensus to allocate the $250,000 to help the university with the proposed hub.
“I personally, I’m all hands in on this,’’ Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram said. “We are finally delivering on our small businesses.”
“We’ll make good on this investment,” Allison told the council.
Plans call for the hub to open in August.
In October 2021, FSU announced that affiliated entities of the university had acquired ownership of the Bronco Square commercial development. Previously, private developer Gary Ciccone owned 50% of the development, the university said.
As a historically black college and university, the school said in its innovation and entrepreneurship hub funding proposal, “Fayetteville State is particularly interested in assisting businesses owned by under-represented demographic segments to improve their access to opportunity through improved awareness of opportunities and improved access to meet market needs.”
Allison called the Bronco Square location “a highly visible, readily accessible business space.”
“We want to make this development a more powerful catalyst for economic growth near one of the city’s key gateways,” he said. “Designed to accommodate up to 20 tenants, we intended to make this a center for revitalized economic activity.”
To help meet that goal, the primary Bronco Square anchor – a 6,500-square-foot stand-alone building that has served as the university’s bookstore – will be moved.
“And the space will be transformed to create an innovative stand-alone innovation and entrepreneurship hub,” the chancellor said.
“This is designed to be a contribution to the community,” Allison said. “The key goal will be to help empower entrepreneurs of small business throughout the greater Fayetteville region to achieve their full potential and reach success.”
The development will be repurposed to serve as the Fayetteville State University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub. The hub will provide innovative workspaces, meeting facilities, business counseling expertise, workshops, and technology to support the needs of regional small businesses and associated organizations, the university said.
Fayetteville State has invested roughly $600,000 of the $1.7 million required to bring the hub to life, the school said. To help enable expedited completion, the school is seeking $500,000 collectively from the city and from Cumberland County to go toward additional renovation expenses.
About 12 years ago, Councilman D.J. Haire said, there was a proposal to build a similar hub further up Murchison Road. "So I'm glad to see that back, and it's going further in concept."
Haire asked Allison if there would be something stated where businesses and people outside of the university would have access and use.
"Also from that memorandum, I'm happy that the council is big on minority contractors and businesses helping to do the construction,’’ he said. “Is that something that can be part of the memorandum of understanding?"
"However you want," the chancellor replied. "What I was saying to you is that that's at the heartbeat of what we want to do. That will be one where we have opportunities for business opportunities."
Allison said the hub would have 32,000 square feet of tenant space.
Fayetteville State said in its hub funding proposal that the project will go far toward accelerating the achievements of the university’s vision to be an even greater catalyst for regional economic development.
African American museum
The proposed African American museum remains in the early stages. Sir David Adjaye has been selected to design the building. Adjaye is known for designing the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
"The story of Fayetteville's Black history would be told with reverence," said Dauv Evans, associate director for the project. He added that community engagement - requesting input - would be important to the entire process.
The museum would tell the story of how Black culture has shaped Fayetteville and Cumberland County from pioneering Black novelist Charles Chesnutt, who lived in Fayetteville, to current hip-hop star and Fayetteville native J. Cole.
Evans said the museum would have national relevance with Fayetteville at the forefront.
"The timing is good," Mayor Mitch Colvin said.
In the work session vote on the requested allocation, Councilwoman Yvonne Kinston voted against the motion.
The museum, Evans said, would include history, office, theater and music and spoken word components.
A similar presentation was made to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners last month. The commissioners voted April 18 to set aside $450,000 for the proposed museum.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.