The city of Springdale is a step closer to adoption of a new downtown master plan. The city’s planning commission on Tuesday (Dec. 15) approved a resolution to accept the plan that the will advance to the Springdale City Council on Wednesday for approval.
The highly anticipated master plan completed by St. Louis-based H3 was on display at the city offices during a standing room only presentation Tuesday evening (Dec. 15). Mayor Doug Sprouse said it’s step one of a two-step process that will be completed Wednesday.
“When I think back to five or six years ago where we started with a renewed downtown alliance. we had no money and we had heard that a trail was going to come through downtown but that was it. We have come so far to this point but it’s important to remember that this is a long-term journey likely 10 to 15 years for full implementation of this comprehensive plan,” Sprouse said.
He the private investment already poured into the city’s downtown without a master plan adoption is a vote of confidence. The Walton family, Tyson Foods and the Care Foundation all contributed early to the cause and dozens of others have since followed, he added.
“Springdale is a growing city with a can-do attitude and it’s time that we finally have a well-thought-out plan that provides for expansion of business, arts, entertainment and education,” he said.
Misty Murphy, executive director for the Downtown Springdale Alliance, said the plan is creates a path that fosters coordination and collaboration.
“It lays the groundwork and provides a blueprint for future development opportunities. There has been a lot of investment into downtown over the past two years and there is more planned, but without a master plan it’s sort of like the wild, wild, West.” Murphy said. “This plan will help to streamline the projects and will serve as a roadmap for future fundraising and development components to rejuvenating our downtown.”
The city paid H3 $150,000 for the plan design. H3 also collaborated with the Velocity Group on the planning process. Daniel Hintz of the Velocity Group said the level of public engagement that went into the new plan is what sets it apart from others.
“There was about 350 people taking part in the discussions and nearly 500 touch points that were galvanized into the final comprehensive plan. It’s going to take a lot work to carry out, but at the core it provides a baseline to work from,” Hintz said. “The city has critical pieces in place at this point with an engaged Downtown Springdale Alliance, a new full-time executive director and now a blueprint that can help align all of the activities and partners into a single language.”
Hintz, who was the former executive director for Downtown Bentonville Inc., said it’s exciting to see Springdale pick up the baton of downtown development.
“All of the major cities in the region will now have well-done master plans that works for their individual growth priorities. I am excited to see how these cities will work together in the future through these downtown plans to further the regional growth as well.”
Work on a permanent downtown feature Turnbow Park is about to begin, according to Sprouse. He said the city council on Wednesday will consider bid approval for unearthing of Spring Creek which will flow at street level through the heart of downtown.
“That project is on-track and the bid came about $100,000 less than we expected. That means we will have all the money we need to do what we had planned for this project which should get underway very soon,” he added.
Sprouse said one of the biggest challenges will be to manage the momentum and keep the ball moving in what he describes as a marathon journey.
“As a city we can only do what our budget allows. The infrastructure related to downtown will be priority; but it’s very important that the development also continue around town because this project is going to take considerable support overtime. The city will work to spend tax money wisely on these projects because we can only spend it once,” he said. “This plan is going to take a lot of commitment and some patience.”
The overall plan seeks to remedy many of the issues raised by residents who took part in the plan discussions. Consensus issues raised include:
• Poor perception, no reason to visit;
• No identity for Emma Avenue;
• Lack of connectivity with too many dead-end streets;
• Lack of quality sidewalks on many of the streets ;
• Outdated downtown housing;
• No grocery store;
• Lack of modern parking;
• No hotel; and
• High vacancies in the downtown buildings.
Link here for the 100-page draft plan.