The 2015 Compass Conference will focus on downtown Fort Smith development, with the soon-to-be-renovated Masonic Temple to provide a unique venue and format for sixth annual event.
“Banking on Downtown Development” is the event theme, with a panel discussion about present developments and what is possible for the historic heart of the Fort Smith region. The event will be held 4 to 5:30 p.m., April 9 (Thursday), in the large and colorful theater inside the former Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith.
Light hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served. Tickets are $35 each, and may be reserved by contacting Daelene Brown at [email protected], or calling 242-2800. Seating is limited to the first 200 who reserve tickets. It is likely the only public event to be held in the theater before renovations begin.
Panelists for the conference are:
• Lance Beaty, owner of Beaty Capital Group, which recently acquired the Masonic Temple;
• Steve Clark, owner of Propak Logistics and who is behind the renovation of the historic Friedman-Mincer building in downtown Fort Smith; and
• Rodney Ghan, downtown property owner and developer.
Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, will moderate the panel discussion.
Arvest Bank, a company that invested in the renovation of a downtown Fort Smith structure in recent years, is the primary sponsor of the event and The Compass Report.
“Arvest is excited to team up with The City Wire and sponsor the 2015 Compass Report and the Conference on April 9,” said Rodney Shepard, president and CEO of Arvest Bank of Fort Smith. “The growth and revitalization of the downtown area of Fort Smith is important to this community and to Arvest. The Compass Conference will highlight the many new development projects and events planned in Fort Smith and specifically the downtown area. I would encourage everyone in the area to attend this event to learn more about the new developments in Fort Smith from business leaders who are investing in our community.”
The conference is part of The Compass Report, which is the only independent economic analysis of Arkansas’ top three metro areas (Central Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith region). The report, produced and managed by The City Wire, measures four leading and four current economic indicators to provide a grade for a regional economy. Arvest Bank is the primary sponsor of the report, with Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce signed on secondary sponsors.
In addition to a multi-million dollar investment in the Friedman-Mincer (former OTASCO) building, Clark is also behind the “Festival of Murals” event planned for Sept. 6-13 in downtown Fort Smith.
Clark, who is also a member of the Central Business Improvement District (CBID), said a festival that brings artists in from around the world “is not what you would expect in Fort Smith, which is why it could be a phenomenal success.” He also said the artists being considered are also those who would actively “Tweet out where they are,” which would attract international attention to Fort Smith.
Beaty, who successfully redeveloped the former Phoenix Village Mall property, is in the process of developing several uses for the former Masonic Temple, which he acquired in late 2014.
“We have some innovative options for the property, and are optimistic the public will find them exciting and that the building will once again be an active part of downtown Fort Smith,” he said in a November 2014 interview.
Beaty told The City Wire that tours of the iconic building will be available after the conference.
Invited but unable to attend was Rick Griffin, with Griffin Properties. The Griffin family has a long history of development and renovation in downtown Fort Smith. The most recent downtown project is a $3 million mixed-use residential development along the 400 block of Garrison Avenue. Richard Griffin, patriarch of the Griffin family, also is a CBID member.
Rick Griffin has told The City Wire that part of his family's approach to downtown development has been to accomplish three things – offer commercial buildings that are modernized, get people living downtown and offer services to support residential and commercial development.