There’s been a steady hum of progress in Farmville for several years, but lately it’s become more like a revving engine, with new hotels, restaurants and other businesses setting down roots and more visitors making Farmville a destination.
“The economy is thriving, as is our vibrant downtown area,” said Farmville Town Manager Gerry Spates, citing a 3 percent increase in Farmville’s overall sales revenue from 2015 to 2016 as one indicator.
In the past 12 months alone, three new hotels have begun construction within the town limits. A brewery, a coffee shop, a new location for Longwood’s bookstore and a loft apartment complex are among the developments that plan to open downtown in 2017, and tourism is at an all-time high, he added.
“This is one of the most productive and economically booming times I have experienced in my almost 40 years as town manager,” said Spates. “We couldn’t be happier with the growth.”
One contributor to the boom is Ross Fickenscher, co-owner of the building that is being transformed into downtown Farmville’s first high-end hotel. Located across High Street from Longwood, Hotel Weyanoke is set to welcome visitors starting in early 2018. The boutique hotel will feature three new restaurants plus a rooftop retreat offering drinks and food service to complement the stunning views of campus and downtown.
“It’s a place on the move,” said Fickenscher. Farmville is really establishing itself as a town with lots of attractions not only for the thousands of students who live here, but for residents and weekend visitors alike.”
"I am blown away by the number of entrepreneurs and business owners who are willing to invest in our community. They see its beauty, its energy and its unique history leading to a great future."FARMVILLE MAYOR DAVID WHITUS ’83
While shopping—for furniture in particular—remains a big draw for visitors, it is complemented by art galleries and studios, recreational activities and attractions connected to Farmville history.
High Bridge Trail State Park, which opened five years ago and runs through downtown, attracted a quarter-million visitors in 2016— a 10 percent increase over the previous year. A Civil Rights Walking Tour opened last fall, linking the downtown district to Moton Museum, which tells the story of Farmville’s role in the national desegregation of public schools. Stops in addition to the museum include churches and businesses that formed the backdrop for Farmville’s rich civil rights history. Also on the drawing board is a new Longwood baseball park adjacent to the High Bridge Trail just west of Main Street. The stadium would be home to the university baseball team and potentially a minor league team.
Wooing new residents to an increasingly livable downtown is another initiative under way.
The former bank building located at the corner of Third and Main streets not only will house the Longwood bookstore, set to open this fall, but also include student housing on the second floor. Loft apartments will open in August in the renovated Southern States building, and at least four downtown building owners will convert second-story space into homes and apartments.
A recent feasibility study led by the Farmville Downtown Partnership, a longtime force behind downtown development, also has identified potential sites for a small grocery store.
“I am blown away by the number of entrepreneurs and business owners who are willing to invest in our community,” said Farmville Mayor David Whitus ’83. “They see its beauty, its energy and its unique history leading to a great future. Their new endeavors will help ensure Farmville is a great place to work, play, live and do business for years to come.”