The city is hoping a public-private partnership will give a boost to south Murchison Road

Just about every business and organization has left this section of Murchison Road, just south of Fayetteville State University.

But not Big Swin’s V-Twins, LLC.

That’s thanks to the pluck and perseverance of one SwinDell Autry Sr., a certified Harley-Davidson technician who has been open for two years.

Autry will tell you faith sustained him, too. He got a double-dose of flooding in 2016, first when heavy rains in September caused Cross Creek to flood his shop with a foot of water. The next month - the Saturday he prepared to re-open - is when Hurricane Matthew struck. As a precaution, he had moved his custom bikes up on lifts - to no avail. This time the flooding went well above the tops of his shop’s door frames.

“Those were hard times,” he says.

He remembers digging through the mud to retrieve bolts and other parts from a custom bike job. Still, he was able to finish the job for the customer.

“I see that guy riding around on his bike past the shop,” he says.

Autry was able to get his shop back open by March of 2017. But he saw neighbors leave who would never return, including a small complex of real-estate connected businesses next to his property; Paye Funeral Home which moved to Ramsey Street; and a pharmacist who moved to Bronco Square farther up Murchison.

He wouldn’t mind having neighbors again. He is asked what kind of establishments might fit that end of Murchison Road.

“Better eateries,” he says, “would probably work.”

Autry is not the only one who would like to see more activity on that lonely stretch - so would the city of Fayetteville, which purchased 11 acres near Big Swin’s and is looking for investors in what would be a public-private partnership connected to the baseball stadium under construction downtown.

The larger goal coincides with a dream held for many years by some city leaders, to better connect Murchison Road with downtown. City officials believe the stadium and the new Rowan Street bridge could help make that happen.

Workers with the state Department of Transportation opened the new bridge, just north of the old one, in June.

Autry says he has already seen a difference. He points out that drivers on the bridge can see both Murchison Road and nearby Bragg Boulevard. Previously, trees visually cut off Murchison Road from downtown.

“It seems like the traffic through here has picked up” since the new bridge opened, he says.

As if to underscore the point, a steady stream of cars could be heard whizzing by in both directions.

He says the bridge work should lead to better drainage and hopefully head off the kind of flooding he saw in 2016.

He may be right in that.

For the bridge project, which is south of Big Swin's, DOT workers installed what are called triple barrel box culverts to contain Cross Creek; these culverts can handle higher amounts of water, according to a DOT spokesman. The grade near the bridge was also raised a little so if water gets backed up downstream, there is less of a chance it will go over the roadway.

Much of the land the city owns on south Murchison is located across the street and just south from the motorcycle shop, on the other side of the Martin Luther King Jr. overpass. While this land to the unaided eye may look like mostly empty fields with a few trees and piles of mulch from where the city cleared the lot, to city staff these fields are an integral part of “Catalyst Site 1 - Murchison Road.”

Among goals, according to the city’s request for proposals, is to remove blight and “increase the quality of life and economic benefits to the area’s low and moderate income residents.” Other goals include attracting retail; increasing chances for affordable housing; and creating a community park.

The city is accepting proposals from qualified vendors until 5 p.m. on Friday in the City Purchasing Office at 433 Hay Street. Vendors can get bid documents from that office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

City Manager Doug Hewett said the city has also put out a request for proposals for phase II for the N.C. Veterans Park on Bragg Boulevard, not far from south Murchison Road.

For this phase, the city plans to acquire the land where the old Rowan Street bridge is being torn down.

“It will allow us to expand the park and provide a pedestrian pathway/corridor under the new Rowan Street bridge up to Catalyst Site 1,” Hewett wrote in an email.

In other words, it will be another connection between Murchison Road and what is becoming a fast-growing downtown.

“This has kind of been a long time coming, even before I got on council,” Mayor Mitch Colvin says. “The city has been having discussions about Murchison Road, and that being my home area, I know there’s been a lot of promise and very little to go with it. We have an opportunity … we need to figure out how to leverage it.”

That opportunity includes more than $1 million in funds allocated by the state for Veterans Park expansion, he says.

One thing’s clear: If things come to fruition, Big Swin’s may one day get plenty of company.

 

Columnist Myron B. Pitts can be reached at mpitts@fayobserver.com or 486-3559.