Fort Smith volunteers to beautify Midland, Towson Avenues, ‘Unexpected’ draws 5 million views on social media

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 190 views 

Believe in Fort Smith and the River Valley Economic Development Council have launched related efforts to boost beautification on the city’s north side of town from Midland to Towson Avenues.

Organizer Mosemarie Boyd said in comments at the Central Business Improvement District (CBID) meeting Tuesday (Sept. 20) the goal was to “keep these projects simple and voluntary with minimal red tape.”

“We can begin on a no-funds-needed basis by surveying businesses and residents for support, as we have already begun doing” for both the Magnolia Business District along Midland Avenue and the Apple Blossom Business District along Towson, Boyd said. Beautification efforts will include “Welcome to the Apple Blossom Business District” and “Welcome to the Magnolia Business District” archways; voluntarily planting apple, crabapple, and magnolia trees in their namesake districts; membership placards for participating businesses; and coordinating “Apple Blossom” and “Magnolia Blossom” festivals for the areas.

“While we may eventually need to raise minimal funds and obtain permission from the city of Fort Smith to build archways, we plan to start by building a network, planting trees, and posting membership placards in business windows. Then we can build from there,” Boyd said.

No action was required from the CBID for the beautification efforts to continue, but CBID Chairman Richard Griffin said there would be “no resistance” to business and property owners willing to take such initiative.

Beyond Boyd’s presentation, the agenda Tuesday was light. Representatives from “Propelling Downtown Forward,” a 64.6 Downtown initiative, offered a recap of its Sept. 15 stakeholders open forum with members of Gateway Planning. (Talk Business & Politics’ coverage of the event last Thursday contains a comprehensive list of the opportunities Gateway laid out for Downtown Fort Smith’s strategic development.)

On Tuesday, Griffin said of the plans, “This is just first blood. We’re working on a bunch of stuff. It’s just a start, and there’s nothing sacred here.”

Griffin acknowledged he was encouraged by ideas like creating a “medical corridor” out of 10th and 11th Streets, the goal being to reactivate that section for retail, dining, walkability and to establish a courtyard feel particularly for those who work or have business with Sparks or a related medical facility in the area.

“All this has to do with transportation and walkability and how you balance the two,” Griffin said.

Gateway began working with 64.6 Downtown in July. The Dallas-based firm is the group behind Rogers, Ark.’s downtown redevelopment design. The contract is for eight months at a cost of approximately $258,000, most of which was supplied by donations in the private sector. The CBID contributed $50,000. Gateway plans to deliver its first draft in December with the goal of having a final draft before the Fort Smith Board of Directors in the spring of 2017.

Finally Tuesday, 64.6 Downtown founder John McIntosh offered a quick update on the interest the nonprofit’s Unexpected project has generated for downtown. In Instagram views alone – not counting Facebook activities, McIntosh said – images from the Unexpected have secured more than 5 million views.

McIntosh confirmed you can “expect the Unexpected” to return for a third year, “but in what form and when, who knows?”