Officials with the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith announced Thursday that they have entered into a consent agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, allowing the museum to move forward with construction of a 50,000-SF building on the 16.3-acre riverfront tract donated by the Robbie Westphal family.
The museum’s spire representing “America’s Star,” symbolic of the U.S. Marshals Service, will be permitted to soar over 90 feet above the easement westward towards the Arkansas River and Oklahoma.
“Today is a major step forward for this project,” said Jim Dunn, president and CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum. “We appreciate the high degree of cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in addressing the easement issue. This outcome is a win-win, and we could not be more pleased.”
Under the consent agreement, the museum may also construct improvements on the easement, including parking lots, pedestrian walkways and a reflecting pool. In addition, the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma will construct its monument to tribal law enforcement within the easement. All improvements are subject to removal if the Corps is required to perform riverbank repairs to maintain navigation.
The museum’s architects, Cambridge Seven Associates and Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, will now resume work on the first phase of the architectural drawings. Brent Johnson Design Inc., the museum’s exhibit designer, has completed the first phase of its exhibit plans and will be able to resume after the architects complete their conceptual drawings.
The architectural design work is expected to take at least nine months.
The riverfront tract is subject to a bank rectification and channel improvement easement acquired under a federal Declaration of Taking in the 1960s when the navigation system was built. The easement was not recorded in county real estate records and was discovered by museum engineers in early 2014.
Since then, the museum has worked collaboratively with the Corps’ regulatory and real estate division on a plan to allow construction on the site.
The Robbie Westphal family completed the land transfer in September.
Depending on fundraising efforts, the museum could be open late in 2017.