64.6 Downtown, the organization responsible for the Unexpected Project, Invest Fort Smith summits and the upcoming Levitt AMP free music concert series, has succeeded in putting Fort Smith on the roster of Main Street communities in Arkansas.
The move is “long overdue,” said Talicia Richardson, 64.6 Downtown executive director.
“Fort Smith was one of the initial cities that started the Main Street program in Arkansas, but no one followed through,” she said.
Fort Smith has been part of Main Street as a Downtown Network Community since 2007, and has been working towards the goals of becoming a Main Street program, which means focusing on the areas set by the National Main Street: economic vitality, design, promotion, and organization.
“We are elated to have the opportunity to move from an Arkansas Downtown Network program to a designated Main Street Arkansas program,” Richardson said. “64.6 Downtown will continue to utilize the skills and resources of the Main Street Arkansas team, as we execute the four-point approach.”
Main Street Arkansas, a program within the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), has 21 community members in the state, including: Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock, Main Street Batesville, Main Street Blytheville, Downtown Conway, Main Street Dumas, Main Street El Dorado, Main Street Eureka Springs, Main Street Helena, Main Street Jonesboro, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, SoMa 501 (South Main Little Rock) Main Street Osceola, Main Street Ozark, Main Street Paragould, Pine Bluff Downtown Development Inc, Main Street Russellville, Main Street Searcy, Main Street Siloam Springs, Main Street Texarkana, and Main Street West Memphis.
“Our Main Street communities across Arkansas continue to produce impressive results,” said Stacy Hurst, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and the State’s Historic Preservation Officer. “By utilizing historic and cultural resources, our Main Street communities are creating authentic districts and corridors that residents and visitors enjoy. Downtowns are thriving because of the commitment these communities have made to the values of Main Street Arkansas.”
Main Street Arkansas was established in 1984 to help spark life into Arkansas’s traditionally commercial areas, a media release said. The program works with “community members committed to revitalizing and preserving downtowns across” the state. At the state level, Main Street Arkansas offers consultation services including interior and exterior design help, small business advice and grant opportunities to its members. “Our Main Street team is frequently on the road speaking with local organizations or visiting one on one with businesses or developers interested in putting a downtown property to work for their community,” said Scott Kaufman, AHPP director. “The qualifications for joining Main Street may be rigorous, but they have proven results for our communities.”
Richardson said being a Main Street community will give Fort Smith access to a national movement that provides community lessons in economic viability, sustainability and promoting downtowns.
“I think the main thing is that you know you’re not alone in (trying things for downtown). You can learn important lessons by seeing what other communities are doing, have tried and what works well,” Richardson said.
AHPP is the division of Arkansas Heritage responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering and preserving the state’s cultural resources.