CBID told that Garrison Commons park set to open in early June

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 126 views 

The location for Garrison Commons, a free-admission park on Garrison Avenue in downtown.

The Fort Smith Parks and Recreation Department reported its first ever loss on the Park at West End for 2015 since taking over operations in 2010, according to a report presented to the Downtown Central Business Improvement District (CBID) on Tuesday (March 22).

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Reinert and Recreation Programmer Sara Duester revealed a shortfall of $1,740.68, with $21,765.36 in revenues and $23,506.04 in expenses.

As a result of the loss, the CBID will cover the shortfall per an agreement with the city of Fort Smith. However, moving forward, the city was directed to place future overages in reserve for years in which a loss may occur.

CBID members were not too concerned with the loss once drilling down into the specifics. The deficit was largely driven by an increasing spike in insurance premiums to $8,977 for 2015. Duester said the Park’s General Liability Insurance increased by almost 5% between 2014 and 2015 and almost 6% between 2015 and 2016.

“I have spoken with our purchasing manager and he is obtaining a quote from another agency,” Duester said. “I am hopeful this will provide the same coverage at a more reasonable premium.”

Furthermore, the Park does much of its business on the weekends, and averages more than $1,000 in revenue for a single Saturday during its peak time, Duester said. In 2015, rain forced the Parks Department to shut down the facility for six of those Saturdays, resulting in a decline from around $29,000 in 2014 to the $21,765 figure reported Tuesday.

Insurance premiums comprise 38.19% of the Park at West End’s expenses.

This mural by Vhils is in the Garrison Commons area, and was installed during the 2015 murals festival in downtown Fort Smith.
This mural by Vhils is in the Garrison Commons area, and was installed during the 2015 murals festival in downtown Fort Smith.

John McIntosh, executive director of 64/6 Downtown, updated CBID members on plans for Garrison Commons, a free-admission park on Garrison Avenue in downtown. The site is on the vacant lot next door to The Popped Popcorn Company that will include a local food truck service Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, a stage towards the back of the lot for live music and entertainment, and a projector system for free movies at night.

“The general idea is to turn that vacant lot into a place for the community to come and gather,” McIntosh explained. “It’ll be landscaped, so just bring your lawn chair and throw down on the lawn. Enjoy music, enjoy a free movie, or enjoy a meal. If you want to rent the park for a private event, there will be a price for that, but the rest of the time it’s open to the public.”

McIntosh expects Garrison Commons to open “sometime in early June.”

Also on Tuesday, Rodney Ghan of RH Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties sought and won unanimous approval from his fellow CBID members to demolish the structures at 500 Towson Ave. in order to redevelop the property as a 6,600 square-foot medical clinic and a 5,000 square-foot office building.

The next regular meeting of the Downtown Central Business Improvement District (CBID) will take place on April 19.