Bellamy predicts FUSE District will serve as 'community gathering space'
The Gaston Gazette
February 16, 2021- Gastonia's Franklin Urban and Sports Entertainment District, better known simply as FUSE, does not need to attract visitors from Charlotte to be successful, according to its master developer Brandon Bellamy.
Instead, the eventual combination of sports, dining, entertainment, and retail to be found at the new downtown stadium and its adjacent properties, can draw support from the more than 200,000 people who live within a 20-minute drive.
"Daytime, pedestrian traffic is one of the keys to success for this project," said Bellamy, owner of the Honey Hunters, the Atlantic Professional Baseball League team that will play 70 home games per season there.
"We have to make this feel like home to people," Bellamy continued. "It has to be a place where they're comfortable taking their families, meeting their friends. It has to be a community gathering place."
Bellamy made his remarks Thursday morning to a Zoom forum sponsored by the Urban Land Institute of Charlotte which focused on, "Sports and Entertainment - More Than Just Tourism."
Bellamy was joined in the forum by Tim Sittema of Crosland Southeast, the company developing the old Eastland Mall property in Charlotte, and Skip Tuttle of the Tuttle Co. which is developing University Center in downtown Rock Hill, South Carolina.
The forum was hosted by Patrick Mumford, president of the newly formed Gaston Business Association.
In reviewing the plans for the FUSE District, Bellamy said the $27 million, 5,000-seat stadium will serve as the catalyst for upward of $100 million in new development for downtown Gastonia.
Bellamy and his company, Velocity Companies, own three property "pads" immediately adjacent to the new ball park.
On one pad he plans to build a five-story building with retail on the first floor and either office or residential space on the four upper floors.
On a second pad, he is hopeful of placing a hotel.
And, on the third pad, he foresees the development of either an office building or a 200-unit apartment complex.
Noting that development is already under way in other properties near the stadium, Bellamy said, "The idea is that the entire area will be uplifted, the economic base of the entire city will be strengthened."
Bellamy also reemphasized that the new stadium will not just be for baseball but can instead be configured for football, soccer, lacrosse, and rugby.
In addition to hosting sporting events, the venue can also be used for concerts, festivals, and other community gatherings.
All three men noted that such developments would not be possible without government and private business working together.
"The involvement and the vision of the city leadership was essential," said Bellamy. "The city pulled together the bonds to fund the building of the stadium."
Mumford, who previously served on the Charlotte City Council, noted that massive redevelopment projects "simply would not make sense financially without support from the public sector."
Mumford also pointed out that such projects take time to come to fruition.
"These projects are complicated," he said. "They require vision. And they require a long-term commitment."
Tuttle noted that the development of University Center comes on 23 acres in downtown Rock Hill, adjacent to Winthrop University, on land that was previously home to Rock Hill Printing and Finishing.
The development seeks to provide an area in which to "Live, Work, Play" and features an indoor sports facility as well as a hotel and dining options.
The old Eastland Mall site, Sittema said, is located on 77 acres which the city purchased in 2012.
The area aims to combine public parks and soccer fields with residential development and neighborhood-friendly retail.
Bill Poteat may be reached at 704-869-1855 or [email protected].
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