by: John McIntosh
64.6: Rediscover Downtown Across the nation, downtowns are the heartbeats of communities. Visitors evaluate the core of a city, whether they’re tourists, potential investors, or professionals considering relocation. By promoting a vibrant Fort Smith downtown, we’re not competing against businesses in other parts of town. Instead, we’re elevating our collective image, from afar and here at home.
What’s new on the east end?
While downtown’s west end has seen development during the past several years, activity on the east end has reached new heights, anchored by the renovation of the iconic Friedman-Mincer building at Towson and Garrison Avenues. Relocation of Propak Corporation headquarters to the building creates new foot traffic for new businesses on the east end of Garrison Avenue, like Savoy Tea Co. and the Popped Popcorn Company.
Cisterna Park nearby recently received a facelift, and a new feature. A citizen-led movement is responsible for a newly dedicated monument to one of Fort Smith’s–and the nation’s–most revered military heroes. William O. Darby, the founder of the U. S. Army Rangers, died in battle just days shy of the end of World War II.
Whether weekdays or weekends, it’s common to see people reflecting at the Darby monument, or visiting one of the murals installed late last summer on the east end of the avenue during The Unexpected. Public art is giving visitors and residents reasons to come downtown, and to linger.
This summer will see the return of The Unexpected September 2-11. World class and internationally renowned artists will again come to Fort Smith to create innovative works in downtown. The artist line up will be released in August.
Renovations of the Masonic Temple are underway. The art deco masterpiece at 200 North 11th will become a multi-purpose event facility. The theater will be restored to its former glory, featuring high-tech video and sound technologies sure to attract major touring productions.
On a more intimate scale, the east end of Garrison Avenue will welcome a new pocket park this summer called Garrison Commons. Located at 913 Garrison Ave at the Vhils Native American portrait, this once vacant lot will be transformed offering much needed urban green space and a unique gathering space on the avenue. The park will feature a stage for live events, a select food truck, and free movie nights in the summer. It will also be available to rent for private events.
Often we hear, what is 64.6? 64.6 Downtown is a nonprofit organization committed to elevating quality of place in Fort Smith. The name is from the number of square miles in our city limits; our philosophy is that if it’s good for downtown, it’s good for all of Fort Smith.
By leading initiatives to complement the existing activity and to encourage new activity, 64.6 Downtown’s economic development goal is simple: create more reasons to come downtown.
John McIntosh is the Executive Director of 64.6 Downtown. Past chairman FS Riverfront Development Task Force. Brand, Marketing and Event Consultant. Past owner The McIntosh Group, marketing and advertising agency in Fort Smith.