Fort Smith business group approves courtyard designs to Garrison development

by Aric Mitchell ( 1,552 views 

Renovation work continues at 905-908 Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith.

The Fort Smith Central Business Improvement District (CBID) approved a request from fellow commissioner and General Pallets owner Phil White on Tuesday (July 18) that will allow his planned redevelopment at 905-908 Garrison Avenue to move forward.

At the monthly CBID meeting, the commission unanimously approved the balcony and facade design of the courtyard that will connect the two buildings.

“There are two tenants already secured and possibly a third within a matter of days,” White told Talk Business & Politics, adding that one of the tenants would be a yoga studio though he declined to reveal any more specifics. “We get three (tenants) and then a fourth one, and I’m ready to just go through the whole project. My goal is to have everything finished by the end of next year.”

White envisions the second floor of the two-story development to consist of 11 studio loft apartments and for the upper portion to be largely closed off from the public. “The intent is that this is a community of people who want to be neighbors – live, work, and play – and the balcony will be their backyard so to speak. It’s not for the general public.”

The corner building on Ninth and Garrison will be “a new bar or club,” and will have indoor patio space. Inside the patio, there will be a two-story water feature to aid in sound control from Garrison Avenue. A second patio in the rear will feature a fire pit. Both features will be organized on the spine of the courtyard.

In previous comments at an April 18 meeting, White said the ground floor corner building would “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. … I would say health food-related, a kind of Southern Comfort, farm-to-family, deal. It’s not going to be a bar.”

As for the rest, White said the apartments would lease once they’re built, “but my focus now is to get this courtyard approved, get working drawings so we can start construction, and at the same time be coming around the building to complete the exterior.”

White plans for the courtyard to be a “plaza of storefronts” that connects the front of Garrison to North A Street, and, as project designer J. Breck Childers put it, a “way to stitch these two buildings together (905-908 Garrison, or the vacant corner building and the old Sears location).”

As far as whether the buildings will qualify for historic standing, White said he will “test the waters.”

“It will be more restoration of those buildings than it will be new construction. On the corner building, I’ve already completed parts one and two for the tax credit. I’m using that as a test to see if I want to ride the course, and if so – if I can get that one through – then I think I can get the old Sears building through. But if not, that is not going to stop the project,” White said.

At a special meeting on June 21, the CBID approved demolition of the facade at the location. The redevelopment encompasses around 19,000 square feet on the ground.

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.