F’ville’s Hollingsworth House faces foreclosure

Craig and Belinda Fitch have come to the end of being able to operate their special events business out of the Hollingsworth House in Fayetteville. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) said it is likely not in the position to purchase the property due to earlier commitments to have the old Travis Hardware building renovated for a potential restaurant.

Fitch last week said he approached the city about the property that is now in foreclosure. He told The Citizen that the building can be purchased for $530,000. That is $260,000 less than the $790,000 price tag in 2007 when he purchased the Hollingsworth House from DDA, Fitch said.

“The city approached us about buying it. They wanted it to remain available for citizens to use and they wanted to keep the name. But it’s bled our liquidity and is endangering our other businesses,” Fitch said. “We owe $750,000 but the bank says it can be purchased for $530,000. It’s a beautiful home and I’d hate to see it end up a doctor’s office or something else.”

Commenting on the foreclosure, Bush Real Estate Group’s Chris Presley said he thought the action expected in late January could be resolved for a lesser price of approximately $490,000.

Fitch said Main Street Director Brian Wismer had presented the idea of purchasing the property to the DDA board and that the board decided to pass on the opportunity.

“The loss of the Hollingsworth House is a real blow. It has been a great special events location,” said City Manager Joe Morton.

Fitch said he was also told by Wismer that the city was planning to spend $550,000 on developing a fine dining restaurant at the old Travis Hardware store on the west side of the old courthouse.

Morton said that once Fitch bought the Hollingsworth House in 2007 the DDA did begin its search for additional property to help revitalize the downtown area and used some of those funds to purchase the Travis property.

“DDA felt the Travis location was the best bang for the buck,” Morton said of the earlier purchase, adding that the commitment to purchase the Travis building was made before Fitch faced foreclosure. “We needed a restaurant and more activity downtown.”

Wismer on Tuesday said the decision not to re-purchase the Hollingsworth House came because the authority’s purchase of the Travis Hardware building for approximately $300,000 had already occurred. Wismer said the authority has received a bid of $184,000 to renovate the building but has not yet signed the contract. All totaled, the amount spent could meet or even exceed $500,000, Wismer said.

“If we weren’t in the middle of a big project we could consider it,” Wismer said of the foreclosure sale. “I will bring it before the board but I don’t see how we would have the funds available. I’m hopeful that the Hollingsworth House will go to the highest and best use.”

DDA is talking with parties potentially interested in establishing a fine dining restaurant at the Travis location on the west side of the courthouse square, said Morton.

If that occurs, a fine dining restaurant would likely include the sale of alcohol. The city’s distance requirement for alcohol sales is 100 yards from the main entrance of the nearest church as measured by walkways, such as sidewalks, that would be used by the public to access the sales location.

The Fayetteville First United Methodist Church is directly across the square on the east side, but falls outside the distance limit.