Fort Smith business group approves demolition at 900 block of Garrison Avenue

by Aric Mitchell ( 1,654 views 

General Pallets owner Phil White cleared a preliminary hurdle with the Fort Smith Central Business Improvement District (CBID) with his planned redevelopment of the 900 block of Garrison Avenue.

White is also a member of the group, which met on Wednesday morning (June 21) to observe the site where construction is underway and to vote on demolition of the facade at 905 Garrison Ave.

The facade connects two anchor buildings, which White believes will attract tenants with focuses on retail and hospitality. He confirmed to Talk Business & Politics there were no deals signed at present, but there were “good prospects.” The ground floor on the corner of 9th and Garrison will “probably” be a farm-to-table restaurant.

“It will not be a fine dining type of restaurant, but it’s not going to be a hamburger joint either,” White said at the April 18 CBID meeting when he announced the project. “I would say health food-related, a kind of Southern Comfort, farm-to-family, deal. It’s not going to be a bar.”

The redevelopment will encompass around 19,000 square feet on the ground, and, White notes, it could include a garden space and some shops where the back entrance of the middle building front now stands.

Garrison Avenue travelers will notice more of the open space once White’s construction team takes out the facade “in the next six to eight weeks.” Per terms of the CBID Wednesday vote, White will not need to build a temporary wall to block the ensuing gap as long as construction starts within the next 90 days.

“I don’t have patience with anything. I want to get this thing going. Everyone does,” White said, adding he didn’t want to build a temporary structure because it might slow the construction process, and “My timeline is for what you see from the street to be finished by the end of the year. I want it to have the appearance of a completed project.”

White continued: “On the interior, my goal is by next year to have it 100 percent leased. I don’t have a lease yet, but I do have prospects. Now as soon as I get a major prospect downstairs, then I’m going with the apartments, because they’ll lease up. But I don’t want to have all this empty. Next year around this time, (the entire project) ought to be getting close if it’s not already finished.”

White said apartments will be “11 or 12 big studio lofts” and there will be an enclosed balcony space with “furniture and grill built in for the apartment people to have a common space.”

In addition to General Pallets, his seat on the CBID, and the planned Garrison development, White also leases The Park at West End to the city of Fort Smith for $1 per year. The park is where the city’s iconic ferris wheel is located.