FAYETTEVILLE — A longtime motel and restaurant on College Avenue is getting a makeover, according to its owners and occupants.
Demolition work began last week at the former Hi-Way Inn at 1140 N. College Ave. Pieces of the motel structure to the east and south, as well as a motel office to the south, collapsed. The structures wrapped around a separate building in the middle, housing Café Rue Orléans, at 1150 N. College Ave.
Concepts by property owners AMR Architects show plans to renovate the only standing motel structure to the north and the Café Rue Orleans building. A third building is planned as a mixed-use development type to the south.
Renovation has already started to the structure of the motel. Concepts show it as the citrus-themed “Clementine on College,” an eight-bedroom motel starting at $99 a night, Adam Day said with AMR Architects. The architecture firm plans to move its Springdale office to the ground floor of the Cafe Rue Orleans building, which previously served as the restaurant’s seasonal Avenue Seafood bar.
The interior of Café Rue Orléans will remain largely the same, although some alterations such as a new sign facing College Avenue and a patio at the south entrance are shown in the plans. A rehabilitated terrace can go on the roof.
In its heyday, the Hi-Way Inn had an indoor heated swimming pool with a roof terrace above what is now the Café Rue Orléans building. The pool closed and was transformed into a rooftop dining space as restaurants moved in and out of the space, according to Tony Wappel and Dennis Garrison’s book “On the Avenue: An Illustrated History of Fayetteville’s U.S. Highway 71B”.
The property was originally used as a residence for workers while they built the Veterans Hospital across the street in 1932. It later became Moore’s Court and then HO Bailey’s Court until 1947 It was Mack’s Court from 1947 to 1952.
It was known as the Vet-Vue Motel thereafter, until it was renamed the Hi-Way Inn in 1965.
The Cafe Rue Orleans building once served as the on-site restaurant at the Hi-Way Inn, but other businesses have come and gone over the years. Among them were Cooking for Days Cafe, Katie T’s Italian, Mister Rib, Cafeteria de Paris and Ghazi’s Pesto Cafe. Café Rue Orléans moved in in 2001.
Café Rue Orleans closed last week as demolition work was underway, but is scheduled to open today, business owner Maudie Schmitt said. She said she was happy to see the property getting a makeover and hopes the renovated buildings will help attract customers.
The place next to Hi-Way Inn is the only home the restaurant has ever known, and Schmitt said she has no plans to move.
“I’m excited,” she said. “Change is always crazy, but I think it’s a good change for Café Rue Orléans.”
The Patel family owned the entire property for several years before the nonprofit Fayetteville Housing Authority development group bought it in 2019 for $690,000. The authority used the property to relocate council housing residents while refurbishment work took place in downtown Hillcrest Towers. AMR Architects bought the property for $900,000 in December after the non-profit authority’s board decided to sell it and other properties to recoup financial losses suffered during the pandemic.
Concepts for the future of the property align with the city’s 71B corridor plan, said Britin Bostick, long-range planner for the city. The city council rezoned the property in July to an urban lane district, which allows for a mix of commercial and residential uses and has buildings close to the street and parking to the rear, the concepts show. Plan 71B considers Café Rue Orléans an “iconic commercial” space.
Plan 71B also provides fewer driveways along College Avenue to create fewer potential conflicts between cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. The concepts show a driveway at the south end of the property.
There are 24 parking spaces at the site, and the new layout will meet or exceed that number, Day said. Building renovations are expected to be completed in the fall, he said.