Forget the flip-flops, Dickson Street is all about Prada loafers

Dickson Street continues to change, becoming more and more upscale, but  there’s a “new cool” happening off the strip at other locations around town
By Wayne Bell
Those who have lived in Fayetteville for a while will know that this is true: Dickson Street has a multiple personality disorder.

A few Saturdays ago, my friend Niki called me to go out.  Like most Fayettevillians that means one word: Dickson Street. While getting ready, I caught myself ironing a shirt and that reminded me of just a few short years ago. Back then you could go to Dickson Street in shorts and flip-flops and feel perfectly comfortable. However, today that’s not quite the case.
With the influx of superb restaurants and upscale bars and clubs, Dickson Street has truly become Northwest Arkansas’ adult playground. Now, there is a “need” to look your best when you hit the street.
The night that Niki and I went out we frequented Speakeasy, Common Grounds and Blu. We noticed the plethora of Seven Jeans, Kenneth Cole shoes and gorgeously dressed ladies who attempted to give the illusion of eating food.
These days, all around Dickson Street there are new buildings—even highrises and “four star” restaurants with valet parking. It is really amazing. Many Arkansas cities’ historic downtown areas are dying and yet Dickson is thriving. However, at what cost?
I appreciate the opportunity to have a great meal or spend $12 on a martini on Dickson Street. But it’s simply apparent that the increased rents are hurting some of the little guys. Have we turned Dickson Street into something it’s not?
Are we loosing pieces of our character by changing the foundation of the street? I suppose that what I am really thinking is: We already have a Rogers.
I love to visit Rogers. I love it that Sephora is next to Borders. I love to eat at PF Changs or Mimi’s and Bonefish Grille is one of the best seafood restaurants in the region. I’m pretty damned excited over the opening of Williams Sonoma this fall. But I choose to live in Fayetteville.
If I asked Fayetteville residents why they choose Fayetteville over Rogers, chances are I would hear that it might have something to do with the culture, the university and lower land prices, but maybe not lower land prices anymore.
Dickson Street is near the university. It depends on college kids—some of them have only a little money. I see the “Keep Fayetteville Funky” bumperstickers and wonder if the people driving those cars are waging a loosing battle.
Here’s a brief little history lesson about Dickson Street. I promise not to bore too much.
In the ‘70s Dickson Street was hopping. There were bars, a few restaurants and quite a few funky retail shops. In the ‘80s and ‘90s investors started paying outrageous prices for property on Dickson Street after the Walton Arts Center positioned itself on the corner of Dickson and West. Soon, most of the small businesses couldn’t afford the higher rents. Only a few of the smaller retail businesses like the Dickson Street Bookshop and Sidney’s held on. Many have tried, but couldn’t make it.
Soon new restaurants and bars started to pop up. First there was The Emerald Coast—now Common Grounds and The Ozark Brewing Co.– now Hog Haus. The old electric power plant became the Powerhouse restaurant. All of these were popular with the college crowd, the yuppies and tourists alike. Bohemia began to take a backseat.
The 80-year old live music venue, George’s Majestic Lounge was joined by a bevy of new clubs, some made it and some didn’t. Next, came the fine dining options and cocktail bars. The first Bordino’s location was in a small space that had been carved out of the back of Jose’s. There was Chloe—where you’ll now find Theo’s, 36 Club—formerly The DeLux, Willie D’s where the old Restaurant on the Corner and Grill used to be and You Know Uno that took a space in the renovated old commercial laundry building. All started drawing their own crowd of regulars.
Places to live near Dickson Street were cheap in the ‘70s. Now some of the new condos in the area go for more than $300 a square foot.
A few years ago Bikes, Blues, and BBQ started taking over Dickson Street in the early fall. Droves of people flood Dickson Street and it’s elbow to elbow.  Football games create a similar rush.  If you don’t believe me, try going anywhere near Dickson after a football game.  The four-minute drive from my house to Dickson can take upwards of an hour on a football Saturday.
In 2004 I moved to Pensacola (EEEK) for a while and I figured that Dickson Street would remain the same. When I moved back last year, I was hugely surprised. Some of my favorites were still here, but a ton of new bars and clubs had opened. Each one possesses a pricey drink list and beautiful décor.  Speakeasy, Blu, and the stunning new Bordino’s are just a few examples why you need to iron that shirt when you go to Dickson these days. Each one of these places looks like they could easily fit in to any major city.
When I came back last year I also noticed that the roads were torn up, new high rises were going in, and yes—you know what’s coming—parking had become entirely impossible.  The free public lots are full—the small lot behind Common Grounds and the lot adjacent to the Walton Arts Center. Oh but wait, we true Fayettevillians know about that “secret” lot at the church. Well apparently, so does everyone else, these days. In a recent development, the church is now smartly charging for parking.  I have from time to time actually paid to valet park my car because it takes a lot less time and is well worth the few dollars. One great draw for Dickson is you can park once and have a ton of options.
Okay, so growth is good, but part of me curdles a bit every time I see a new building eat up parking. I have always considered Fayetteville to be a great place and truly enjoy the fact that Northwest Arkansas really embraces it. But with the new trends on Dickson Street, you are beginning to see fewer bohemian types. They have been replaced with yuppies in Prada loafers.  Now I think that’s cool and all, but part of me is singing my favorite line from Rent, “Bohemia, Bohemia, Bohemia…is dead!”  Or maybe just the face of modern bohemia is changing. Who knows?

I have to meet some friends tonight for dinner on Dickson and I think we may go to a club afterwards. Let’s see…I hope I have something ironed and I better make a quick run by the ATM.
The New Cool
What’s new, what’s cool and where you can find it
While things are trending upscale on Dickson Street, new pockets of cool are popping up elsewhere around town. Here’s where you can find some of the “new cool” and at most of these places, parking is not a problem.
College Avenue
College Avenue, the long straight stretch from downtown Fayetteville to the mall, has been filling up with some cool businesses for a few years now, especially some great restaurants. Going north from downtown you’ll find Cajun, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Chinese and many American restaurants. Head south on College —which merges into Archibald Yell Boulevard and then South School Street— and you’ll find a French bakery, BBQ, Thai, Mexican and Soul Food.
College is also becoming well known for its music clubs. The Music Hall on College –formerly Clunk—has taken off.  It offers live music by bands that haven’t jumped through enough hoops to play the Dickson Street clubs yet and it’s also a venue where you might hear some undiscovered touring bands that will be filling arenas the next time you hear about them.
The Green Door has really established itself as a nice venue for live music. The crowd can swing a bit older, but the music is eclectic—there’s an emphasis on blues—and it’s worth the time. It’s a big room with a nice atmosphere that feels like a music club.
The Dart Room is located in a building that has been home to one drinking establishment or another for decades. The Dart Room is popular with the local goths and industrial music fans and like the Music Hall, offers its stage to some unknown touring bands, even the occasional European band.
Evelyn Hills Shopping Center, Fayetteville’s “first shopping center” has become a beehive of activity in the past few years. Uncle Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters—once a Dickson Street dweller—has offered folks from The Natural State, everything for their outdoor needs from its Evelyn Hills shop for years. When Ozark Natural Foods Coop decided to expand its operation, it left the Dickson Street store and has grown by leaps and bounds in the new store in Evelyn Hills. One of NWA’s most exclusive gift shops—they have stuff you kind find at Barney’s and other well know big city shops—Handmade left behind it’s downtown location for a larger space in the shopping center where parking is not a problem. Thrift store fans rejoiced when a thrift store moved into the center and just a few weeks ago The Edge School of Massage moved it’s home there, too. The center is also now home to a Chinese, Mexican and Pizza restaurant and the food coop has a healthy lunch buffet.

South Fayetteville and the Mill District

When the old feed mill at the corner of South School and Sixth Street was renovated for use as retail and condos and a new Walgreen’s opened across the street, thing began changing for the somewhat neglected south part of town. It’s a quick, nice escape from the hetic surroundings of Dickson Street. As mentioned before there are several good restaurants and a beautiful paved, multi-use trail next to a small creek connects this part of town to Dickson Street and the Fayetteville Public Library. Retail businesses are starting to take hold. The Heartwood Gallery, an artist and musicians collective, offers a rotating display of work by dozens of local artists and musicians. Next door the New Design Center and the Little Mountain Book Bindery offer classes and some retail. An independent bookstore, Nightbird Books offers the latest in literary and also host many special events at its location in the Mill District complex where a Farmer’s Market takes place outdoors on Thursday nights. Go further south and you’ll find thrift store shoppers browsing the Salvation Army thrift store and where a few store fronts away Habitat for Humanity will be opening their new ReStore, where shoppers can find recycled home building supplies at drastic discounts. At the opposite end of the trail near the edge of Dickson Street, a new bicycle recycling shop, Bike City, offers refurbished bikes for sale in the old Quonset hut where a new salon also took up residence recently.
The Fayetteville Square
Some like to wrap Dickson Street and the Fayetteville Square areas in the same bundle, but historically they began as different and still maintain some of their original character. The square was built with grand buildings where bankers and lawyers set their roots in the 1800s along with retail businesses. Some of the buildings still remain with exterior grandeur intact. Dickson Street on the other hand was home to the ice plant, a commercial bread bakery, commercial laundry, the train depot and warehouses. Until not too long ago, most of the banks were located on the square. Now upscale condos are the taking the place of some and there are a few retail businesses that keep it interesting. Spring through fall, the Farmer’s Market is a big, beautiful draw. If you are gay or bi, or just enjoy dancing there’s Tangerine. The drink prices are actually decent and there are different sections including a dance floor, trendy upstairs, posh lounge and a pretty nice outdoor patio area. Gay bars tend to be very expensive, but this one has remained fairly reasonable. Nearby Sound Warehouse offers music and Dark Star Visuals, beads and a boutique and there are unique imports at World Treasures. There’s a jewelry store, hair salon, t-shirt shop, dry cleaners, coffeehouses, restaurants, bars and yes, there are still banks. A new restaurant, Urban Table, is set to open in the center of the square in the Old Post Office building and on the east side of the square a half block away you can find the hip resale clothing shop Cheap Thrills, the new ddp art gallery, and Studio3Home that just opened in the front of Kathy P. Thompson’s art studio. Studio3Home is a small space where you can find a very select group of home accessories, including several one-of-a-kind pieces. Although there’s not a whole lot of nightlife on the square, Tiny Tim’s Pizza and Tables and Ale have become regular hangouts for many who like to relax in a more laidback manner and away from the heel clicking on Dickson Street.
Condos require more responsibilty than you think

By Bill Mayo

With the onset of trendy condominium ownership, many face more questions than answers to the rights and responsibilities of shared living. Condominium construction has changed the face of Fayetteville and particularly Dickson Street. While some may chant “Let’s Keep Fayetteville Funky,” the reality is that such development is not funky, but to some a sign of progress. Without getting into the aesthetic arguments of how Fayetteville’s “look and feel” has changed, there is more than meets the eye to this gentrification.

Aside from the perceived status of condominium ownership to some, an attractive aspect is the semblance of no maintenance responsibility. Do a quick read of promotional material for completed projects and those currently under construction and you will invariably find the statement that your affordable monthly condominium fee will cover your maintenance cost.

For the uninitiated buyer however the luxury, upscale living you think you are entering likely will come with a deferred price that may not be initially evident.  Without an advance examination of the mechanics of communal ownership, you may find yourself mired in a reality that makes your anticipated good life something quite different.

Condominium organization and management are governed generally under Arkansas law by the Horizontal Property Act that prescribes the necessary requirements for project plans, bylaws and governance. These laws are supplemented by the terms of prospective condo purchasers’ contract, master deed, bylaws and other closing documents that result in ownership.

Typically as the developer is marketing the sale of the project, it provides the management and maintenance. It is not until the developer has sold the last unit and is no longer responsible to the owners that potential problems arise.

Usually the condo owner is contractually responsible for the repairs and maintenance of the interior of the unit, which also includes the plumbing. Whether the project is governed by a Board of Directors or an Owners Association, the common ownership of the project is responsible for the structural aspects of the building to include its exterior, roof and common areas such as landscaping, parking, reception areas and the like.

With newer construction, maintenance problems are a lesser concern, but with the aging of the project it becomes an issue. Also, in Fayetteville there are older townhouse apartment complexes that have converted to condominium ownership that definitely have more pressing maintenance issues that a shiny new building.

Once the developer has made its money and moved on, decisions will need to be made for conducting the security and maintenance on behalf of project by the Board of Directors or Owners Association. Typically the developer would have provided the necessary personnel to handle these matters. Once the project is fully marketed, this responsibility is then left with the collective owners who have to pay for these services upon their pro-rata ownership interest.

The maintenance of a reserve fund for future repairs is often overlooked by the first time buyer. Financing for public housing projects requires a reserve fund based on projections for future repairs and maintenance. Likewise, many private lenders now will look into the necessary establishment of an adequate reserve fund for future repairs for private condominium projects. The reserves must be adequate to address not only routine maintenance but the future replacement as necessary of major items such as the roof. The collective owners may find themselves facing large assessments if the fund is inadequate to bring the project within financing capability.

Life and personal politics being as they are, owners may find their lives and pocket books ruled by a majority they do not agree with.

For those owners who do assume the responsibility of decision-making, they may find themselves exposed to unwanted liability from a disgruntled minority.  In a democracy, someone is always unhappy, and that someone may be your neighbor who feels that you have either exceeded your authority or that you are shirking your responsibilities. For the absentee alumni owners who blow in only during Razorback football and basketball season and expect the project to remain as pristine as they day they bought in, their needs for comfort and style may contrast starkly to those who are full time residents.

In a perfect world, condominium living could be a paradise. In the imperfect world in which we live, it may be something quite different, and you won’t find this information in the advertising brochures.

What do you think about Dickson Street? Do you like the old or the new Dickson Street? Tell us why and tell us about any other “new cool” spots that you know about around town. Just hit the comment button.

Categories: Legacy Archive