Local News

Ft. Bragg Region Happily Prepares to Be Invaded

Posted January 18, 2007 7:28 p.m. EST

— A surge of new residents is heading to the Fort Bragg area—thousands of them.

The migration is the result of the latest round of changes brought about by the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure program, known as BRAC.

The Army is moving Forces Command and the Reserve Command from Fort McPherson near Atlanta to Fort Bragg. Thursday, community leaders in Fayetteville announced how they are going to brace for the thousands of soldiers and civilian contractors who will be heading their way by 2011.

Mayor Tony Chayonne is happy about having time to do it.

"It's not many communities that have the chance to see growth before it happens. Most of the time, we turn around and say 'what happened?'" Chayonne said.

An estimated 20,000 people are spread across 11 counties surrounding Fort Bragg. The focus is Fayetteville. That's why city, Cumberland County and Fort Bragg leaders are creating a project committee of volunteers to get ready.

"If we don't handle, as a region, this move properly, then maybe it'll go the other way in 10 years—and we don't want that to happen," said Jim Konneker, committee chairman. The committee’s members work in schools, housing, transportation.

Their goal is to showcase what Fayetteville has for big-city transplants.

Fayetteville has a Starbucks. It has, we do have nightlife. And we do have entertainment, such as this regional theater," Konneker said.

Part of the effort is to keep it real, not to exaggerate.

"We're not about to say that we have a cultural community that is competitive with Atlanta," said Deborah Mintz, director of the Cumberland County Arts Council and a committee member. Fayetteville has unique attractions, however.

"We have our own symphony orchestra. We have museums -- the Airborne and Special Ops Museum, which is stellar. You can't find anything like this anywhere," Mintz said.

The project committee will be in place for at least three years. It will meet regularly with the regional BRAC task force about planning strategies.

The committee will be funded through donations from citizens and businesses.