Fort Smith picked for ‘Main Street Matters’ contest

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 32 views 

Area residents could soon be smelling fresh paint along Garrison Avenue following the announcement today that Fort Smith is in the running for a revitalization project as part of the "Main Street Matters" campaign.

The campaign, being sponsored by paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore, puts Fort Smith in competition with communities such as Santa Fe, N.M., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Benjamin Moore's Chief Marketing Officer David Melancon told The City Wire that the towns to be voted on in all 50 states had to be in position to benefit from such a project.

"We purposefully chose main streets in towns and cities that, in addition to wanting something like this to happen, were right for this type of revitalization," he said. "We all know that there are some downtowns that are having problems that could use the type of help we could give."

In addition to finding cities that could use revitalization, a Benjamin Moore retailer was another key factor so that supplies could be easily accessible for the project, he said.

While a specific project has not yet been chosen in Fort Smith, Melancon said anything to help Fort Smith shine would make a huge impact in the city's image.

"If you think about that one broken window theory – communities that look good and are shiny – that's the first step in any revitalization."

Maggie Rice, a senior planner with the city of Fort Smith, said just being picked as the only Arkansas city is an honor.

“We think it’s quite a compliment that Fort Smith has the historic and architectural value of the other cities. We hope to work hard to preserve not only the history and architecture but also the neighborhoods,” Rice said.

Cities chosen to be a part of the voting were selected through working with local governments and other organizations, according to Benjamin Moore's Director of Communications Kimberlee Bradshaw.

"What we did was we looked at some of the towns across the U.S. and Canada – actually, it was more of a partnership working with local chambers, mayor's offices and local businesses that could be open to this project because it's one of those things that we know that main streets are such a vital part of our communities," she said.

Cities will be chosen based on votes cast on the company's Main Street Matters website. Once there, visitors can click on the image of Arkansas and then click on Fort Smith to cast a vote.

Melancon said individuals can vote once per day for any city they would like.

According to a press release, voting will take place until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on June 30, with a list of 20 winning cities announced in July.

In addition to the facelift, local businesses will also get assistance in strengthening their operations, Melancon said.

"In each city we go into, we hope to bring partners with us to aid businesses, or maybe partners who can help consult with the local community to help with tourism."

No specific facelift has yet been chosen in Fort Smith. But should the city be chosen as one of the 20, Benjamin Moore will work with local leaders to choose the right project.

"We really believe in Main Street and the independent retailers that make up Main Street," Melancon said. "It's the hub of our community. We want to do more than honor it, we want to build it."