The impressive, arch-framed entrance envisioned by the builder of the 1950s-era Twin Arch Motel in Fayetteville never came to fruition, but that design concept left its impression on the establishment’s name.
The name has endured six decades, eight owners and multiple reinventions.
The Twin Arch Motel sign stayed intact while the property sat vacant for the last five years, falling into disrepair. The structure was even ravaged by fire in 2011. Now, the Twin Arch name will be retained in the rental spaces being planned by local developer Mark Zweig, who intends to demolish the structures and rebuild.
The project is part of his effort to help breathe new life into the stretch of North College Avenue where the hotel is located, just north of Dickson Street and the downtown square, one of the busiest passages in the city.
“Things took off, and they never really got back to it,” he said, referring to the design feature that became the property’s namesake.
Charles Pile was an experienced builder but had never been in the hospitality business before Twin Arch. The concept of opening a motel sprang from long work trips through his concrete and septic tank company, where he and his wife Helen stayed in accommodations throughout the country, Ronald Pile said.
His hand was in every stage of the project, from digging the footers to placing the final pinkish stone on the buildings’ exterior.
It took about three years, but he was able to do everything with his independent team, only contracting services to install plumbing and electric, said Ronald Pile, adding that construction was a challenge because of the lot’s jagged terrain.
In his mid-20s at the time, Pile helped out with construction when he wasn’t managing Pile Concrete Inc. in Lowell.
After the Twin Arch was in operation and before it sold in 1956, Pile and his wife, also named Helen, stayed on site and managed the property on several occasions, when his father was out of town.
It has been disheartening for him to watch the property decline in recent years.
“Of course, I occasionally drive by, and it’s kind of sad to see it deteriorate like it has. There are a lot of memories there,” he said.
He was excited to hear that Zweig had purchased the property and looks forward to seeing what he will do with it.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
Gateway to the City
Zweig bought the Twin Arch through his company, Mark Zweig Inc., for $150,000 on Dec. 15.
With at least one other planned investment on North College Avenue, Zweig is doing his part to usher in a new era for the well-trodden expanse that bridges the downtown area to the rest of Fayetteville.
North College doubles as U.S. Highway 71B and, besides Interstate 49, is the busiest street in town, according to the most recent data from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.
For its part, the city is planning improvements for the half-mile stretch of North College Avenue between North and Maple streets, and that could trigger more development in an area of the city Zweig considers to be in dire need of new life.
“It looks like hell,” Zweig said. “We have a thriving economy, we have a growing city, we have a top-rate university, we have low unemployment, we have all these fantastic things, and then our main street, the entrance to the city, looks like it’s in a place that’s going out of business.”
Transportation director Terry Gulley said construction starts March 1 on the improvements, which include buried utility wires, 10-foot-wide sidewalks and new, decorative streetlights. The project is expected to be finished at the end of 2017 and is estimated to cost about $2 million.
“The whole gateway to the city is going to be transformed over the next two years,” Zweig said. “The Twin Arch is going to fall into that, and it’s going to link it to downtown Fayetteville.”
Also in the area, Zweig intends to build a new, 15,000-SF office for his other company, Zweig Group, a media, publishing and consulting company for the architecture and engineering industries.
Its offerings include 20 industry research reports per year, a weekly newsletter, books and a magazine called Civil + Structure Engineer.
“This company’s growing so fast, we need the space,” Zweig said of Zweig Group.
Indeed, the company showed 31 percent revenue growth in 2015, and he projects 48 percent revenue growth in 2016.
Zweig had three vacant lots under contract at 867 N. College Ave. in mid-January for the project, but never closed the deal on the property, which he said was “not right for us.”
He is now searching for another spot in the area to build the new offices.
“The main desire is to improve Fayetteville. Until North College looks like it should, I think we have to apologize to everyone we bring into this town, and I don’t like that. I don’t want to apologize for this town and the way it looks,” Zweig said.
He is determined to make a change, despite the daunting size of the project.
“If everyone thinks it’s too difficult to work here, maybe that creates an opportunity for someone who is willing to try — as long as you don’t go broke in the process,” he said.
“Fortunately for me, I have other sources of income besides Mark Zweig Inc., so that allows me maybe to be able to do some things that some other people couldn’t do.”
Zweig has long had his eye on the Twin Arch Motel as a potential development property, and even considered purchasing it a few years back. However, he held off making an offer due to a lack of parking availability.
The game-changer? This time, he was able to purchase an adjacent property in order to create parking.
Those few years, however, took their toll on the Twin Arch, affecting which parts of it would be salvageable, he said.
“All the rock was stripped to build homes in Bentonville. The windows were left open. It’s just gone to waste.”
The buildings don’t meet legal standards and cannot be brought up to code by reasonable means, he said. “There’s too much water damage and fire damage. It’s just not worth it.”
He will, however, try to save the foundation.
And the foundation isn’t the only recurring element that will make it to the next iteration of the Twin Arch. “We’re going to keep the name and bring back the nostalgia,” Zweig said.
To that end, Zweig said he intends to retain the basic configuration of the property — two long buildings running parallel to each other and a back building that creates a U shape. And for a bit of added nostalgia, Zweig has plans to install fiberglass deer out front.
The deer, although not present when the Piles owned it, were a mainstay on the property for years, inspiring a rallying cry, “Bring back the deer!” for local restoration enthusiasts, Zweig said.
Zweig’s overall design for the rebuilt space features 14 furnished rental spaces — apartments in the front buildings and townhouses with circular staircases in the back.
Zweig says the property will be unique because the units will be fully furnished apartments with utilities included that are not aimed at the student market. He says interested tenants are already in line, including physicians working at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest Arkansas campus one week out of each month.
And the units are furnished for a reason. “They are fairly small spaces (ranging from about 250 SF to 1,200 SF), and we want to make it so they’re really, really functional,” he said. To achieve that, the Zweig team plans to build in as much as possible. “It’s got to be laid out perfectly.”
Also to compensate for the small size, the design will feature high ceilings and large windows.
Perhaps the most interesting element of the design revealed so far is Zweig’s intended use for the space between the parallel buildings.
He wants to install a 15-foot-wide swimming pool in the 30-foot divide. Zweig estimates it will measure between 20 and 30 feet long.
“That’s going to be a big attraction for this project,” he said. “We think, if we get this done, it’s going to be a cool spot,” he said. “I just want to make it cool.”