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Downtown Revitalization: Growing Fort Smith

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- New efforts in downtown Fort Smith are working to help the city compete on an international stage.

As you drive through Fort Smith, the view is changing. And merchants along Garrison Avenue want to be a part of that.

“It’s important to bring volume into downtown Fort Smith. Without that volume, the businesses cannot thrive," Pam Kelly, the Fort Smith Downtown Business Association Director said.

Pam Kelly is the director of the new Fort Smith Downtown Business AssociationThe 70-member organization started in January to bring in more traffic with events like 1st Tuesday, a street dinner in September and holiday activities. And all those people coming downtown will see the cityscape in a new way.

“Vibrancy. They’re going to see events, they’re going to see inclusion in our downtown area, they’re going to see a lot of activities that are culturally based," Talicia Richardson said, Propelling Downtown Forward Initiative & City of Fort Smith Planning Commission.

Talicia Richardson is working on the Propelling Downtown Forward InitiativeIt’s a master plan for the city just approved last month by the board of 64.6 Downtown. But things are already moving forward.

“When you see aesthetically the buildings changing, when you see business owners and property owners updating their facades of their buildings, that’s changed," said Richardson.

And you’ve likely noticed the colorful additions of art murals around downtown. Steve Clark is the founder of 64.6 Downtown, a non-profit started in 2015 to create more vibrancy in the area. It began with The Unexpected to bring in urban contemporary art.

“So that the idea was to provoke, was to reintroduce our downtown through a lens that probably hadn’t been looked at before, that was the walls, the historic walls," Steve Clark, 64.6 Downtown Founder & Central Business Improvement District Commissioner said.

The 2017 installation of The Unexpected is scheduled for the last week of July and 64.6 Downtown is making it a weekend spectacular by coordinating it with the Peacemaker Music & Art Festival.

“There’s no cavalry coming to save the city then you’re just kind of obligated to fight a little harder. and I think that’s what’s happening," Clark said. "The new currency is amenity, how can we make our city not just okay but like better than what we’re up against."

On Tuesday, June 13, at 5 p.m., the city planning commission and Central Business Improvement District will meet to adopt the master plan. The next steps will include zoning changes and design of “form-based code” to create a cohesive look downtown. Richardson said that should be done by the end of the year.

As for The Unexpected, Clark said to be ready for some more surprises this year.