Arts center blesses two sites for city-owned parking garage

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 100 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — The Walton Arts Center and the city of Fayetteville are inching closer to an agreement for more parking near the center. Inadequate parking has plagued the center, almost since it opened 22 years ago.

At a meeting Thursday (July 26), the Walton Arts Center Council board gave its nod to two sites proposed for a city-owned parking garage.

The city has narrowed its options to two locations — one on the parking lot across the street from the center on Dickson; the other on the same block as the center, on the southeast corner. Both are an easy walk to WAC, what some consider the nucleus of the Dickson Street entertainment district.

WAC is looking at a $20 million upgrade to its dated campus and needs the city’s support, preferably in the form of parking, said WAC president and CEO Peter Lane. Mostly, the board members seemed anxious to let the public know it is committed to staying in the area.

“This $20 million investment is our signal that the Walton Arts Center  is here and is here to stay,” Lane said. “The parking garage is a good thing for Walton Arts Center, Dickson Street, Fayetteville and the whole region.”

Drawings of plans for both sites included an expansion of WAC’s Starr Theater and a spot for a second performing arts theater later, likely after the parking garage is up.

WAC hired Boora Architects in Portland to explore the two options the city is considering. The parking garage would be up to five stories tall, with at least two floors below ground, adding 300 spaces, maybe more. The architects provided a laundry list of logistical hurdles, some that are likely to have costs, said principal Michael Tingley.

“All those things are manageable, all negotiable,” said Tingley said. “There are no deal killers here.”

The city has included WAC staff and members of a special task force in the making of its plans.

In other business, the board has asked its lawyer, Marshall Ney, to draw up a letter to Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to ask for an opinion on whether the council’s actions are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The nonprofit council was established to oversee the construction, management and operation of the center, which is owned by the University of Arkansas and the city of Fayetteville.