FAYETTEVILLE — The last person living in Leisure Living Estates, the once sprawling mobile home park at Cliffdale and Skibo roads, is now gone.
Earlier this month, a six-man crew took apart Douglas Gregg’s double-wide and hauled it away. All that remains on the 48 acres of prime property – where a new shopping center will likely go – are knee-high weeds and a few empty trailers slated to be moved or destroyed.
Built in the 1960s, Leisure Living was once home to more than 200 tenants living on Restful Court, Relaxing Road and Harmony Lane. Drugs, stabbings and shootings became a problem by the 1980s, but residents formed a community watch in the early 1990s and even held a fall carnival and Christmas food drives.
Today, though, the land is more valuable to commercial developers than to residential landlords. The city rezoned the land in April. Costco, a warehouse club store, is rumored to have looked at the site, but no decisions have been made about possible tenants for the new development, according to Johnny Wellons, a co-owner of Leisure Living.
Work on preparing the land for construction likely will start next year, he said. The site could accommodate multiple stores and attract national retailers. A six-lane road will bisect the property, which will require the relocation of the railroad tracks along Cliffdale Road.
Wellons said his family owns the 16 mobile homes that remain on the property. Some have been sold, while others are beyond repair and will be destroyed, he said.
Gregg was the last person living in the park until Wednesday, when the crew came to disassemble his double-wide and haul it to another park. He said Leisure Living was a good place to live when he moved in 10 years ago. A couple living in the park had started a Bible study, and their ministry to young people was thriving.
“It was better when I got there, but worse when I left,” Gregg said.
The park had gotten dangerous, he said.
“It was hell,” he said. “There was real bad people there.”
Gregg said his home, which he shares with his 19-year-old son, had been broken into about four times.
“The other day, somebody tried to break in,” Gregg said. “He had to run them off.”
Wellons deflected Gregg’s criticism.
“If it wasn’t suitable for him, he could have gone somewhere else,” Wellons said, adding Gregg had stopped paying his rent six months ago.
Gregg said he stopped paying rent because he needed to save money to move his mobile home and associated expenses.
Wellons said the park’s management tried to work with residents who were struggling to pay moving costs.
Gregg said he lost his job about a year ago, but recently started a new job. His mobile home was moved to Cross Creek Pond Mobile Home Park, about 2 miles west off Cliffdale Road. The move and other expenses cost him more than $5,000, he said.
“It was ridiculous,” he said. “There was no kind of help.”
Leisure Living was nearly deserted as a crew from Willie’s Mobile Homes took apart Gregg’s double-wide so the two sides could be moved to the new site with the furniture remaining inside.
Owner Willie King said he had moved about 35 trailers out of Leisure Living and was expecting to move about 15 more. Most of the people who had lived in Leisure Living had moved to Cross Creek Pond or the Buckhead Farm Community off Crystal Springs Road, he said. He also moved mobile homes to Raeford, Lumberton, Autryville, Clinton and Raleigh.
Many of the homes can be moved in less than a day, King said.
“Normally on a double-wide like this, it’ll take a good six hours,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, as King’s crew put Gregg’s double-wide back together at the Cross Creek Pond park, children ran and played down the street. A few neighbors wandered out onto their porches to watch the progress.
Gregg said he hopes he will be happier in the new place.
“It’s a little more peaceful,” he said.