Entertainment district opens at Chaffee Crossing, new apartments planned

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,679 views 

The signs are up, the cups are in and Fort Smith has used the new permanent entertainment district in the historic district at Chaffee Crossing with a weekend celebration at Fort Smith Brewing Co.

The Fort Smith Board of approved permanent entertainment districts Sept. 1 for downtown and Chaffee Crossings. Daniel Mann, executive director and CEO of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment District, told the FCRA board of directors at a meeting Thursday (Sept. 24) that the signs were up clearly marking the district and the entertainment district would be in use during the third anniversary celebration of Fort Smith Brewing Co. Saturday (Sept. 26).

The 2019 Arkansas General Assembly adopted Act 812, which makes it lawful for cities to designate “entertainment districts” where patrons can walk outside a bar or restaurant with an open container of alcohol for public consumption. The act intends to “promote hospitality and tourism by establishing areas of a city or town that highlight restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality options,” Fort Smith Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman noted in a memo.

The act specifically allows for the consumption of alcohol in public when it is consumed within the parameters of a designated entertainment district. Though the act allows for public consumption of alcohol outdoors in these districts, it does not “relax or supersede” laws or regulations dealing with alcohol including public intoxication or minor in possession of alcohol.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved on Aug. 4 an ordinance to allow for a permanent entertainment district at Chaffee Crossing. The ordinance changed the “temporary” entertainment district at The HUB at Chaffee Crossing established when the board approved the temporary entertainment district on March 17. The temporary districts remain in place.

Mann said 16-ounce plastic cups that look like glassware and have the Chaffee Crossing logo as well as the names of participating establishments in the district have arrived are available at both Fort Smith Brewing Co. and JKC Cellars, the only two that are participating in the entertainment district at the moment. Mann noted additional business would be included in the district in the future.

The entertainment district will be open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight, though special requests can be made for special occasions that warrant the district staying open until 2 a.m., Mann said.

Fort Smith Brewing Co. opened as a microbrewery in Chaffee Crossing in Sept. 2017. From 2017 to the first of the year the company went from a 1.5-barrel brewing system and six taps to a seven-barrel system and 62 taps. By the end of 2019, the beer was distributed in eight locations and the microbrewery had opened a second taproom in downtown Fort Smith.

During Thursday’s meeting, the FCRA also approved the sale of buildings 809, 810 and 812 on Terry Street in Chaffee Crossing along with approximately 1.06 acres of land for $350,000 to Dan Hill. The property will be renovated into upscale apartments. The three buildings are approximately 3,000 square feet each, Mann said.

“The purchaser has remodeled other property for an apartment out here. I have seen the remodel, and it is first-class,” Mann said.

He also noted that two barracks, number 836 and 837, near these buildings, are under contract for development into commercial/residential property. The downstairs of the properties will be commercial (and include a restaurant) with residential units upstairs.

“Now these on the other corner will be residential,” Mann said. “That tells you what is coming to the area. I am excited.”

Hill contracted to purchase a lot adjacent to the three buildings where he will build a 6,000-square-feet, two-story quadplex with four 1,500-square-feet residential dwellings. All the units will follow a lease with option plan, meaning a renter who decides he wants to stay will have the option of purchasing the apartment, Hill said.

Closing is set for on or before March 31, 2021. Hill said the construction should move quickly with both phase one (renovated barracks) and two (the new building) to be completed in about 15 months.

“I am excited as a landowner and developer out here to be a part of this,” Hill said.