Big plans in the 900 block of Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith include creation of retail, restaurant and residential space.
The Central Business Improvement District Commission will discuss a proposal Tuesday at its next regular monthly meeting. Part of that discussion calls for a variance to knock down the front facade of a gutted building at 905 Garrison Ave.
The commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the seventh floor board room of the Area Agency on Aging Building, 524 Garrison Ave.
Phil White, a CBID commissioner, is a partner with property owner John Canterbury in the project underway by Uptown Properties at 900-911 Garrison Ave.
White, whose other downtown projects have included the Park at West End and Belle Grove Schoolhouse Apartments, said he has one last big project left in him.
“I want it to be something to attract business and people downtown,” White said of the development. “A place for people to shop, eat and enjoy.”
Childers Architects has been retained as the firm for the project, which includes the old Sears building and the corner building that once served as Canterbury’s TEC employment office. It was later a bank.
The variance White has requested is to remove the facade for the 905 Garrison Ave. middle structure, which has been gutted after the roof collapsed several years ago. In August 2015 work was done to secure the 4,582-square-foot area, including the facade. The space was last used as a Fort Smith Police Department substation in the 1990s.
“We’re starting with this as a vision,” White explained of the 900 block concept.
Parking is planned to be in the back with access to shops through a garden area. The developer’s artist rendering also envisions “active life retail” downstairs and residential space upstairs. A yoga studio would be a more likely candidate for space in the development than a bar, according to White.
“We’re not looking for office space,” White added. “Something like this will create a demand for office space downtown. We need more people living in downtown.”
White explained that he and a small group of friends, including Ralph Baker and John McIntosh, created the concept more than 10 years ago for the 900 block redevelopment.
At its meeting Tuesday, the CBID Commission will also consider a request to remove black and white “Carrara” glass tiles from the front of 505-506 Garrison Ave. The request has been made by Kevin Keefner of Ozark Oil & Gas.
“The owner proposed to restore the building’s original brick facade,” a city memo states.
The building was constructed in 1888 and remodeled in the late 1930s. It is considered a “contributing structure” to the Garrison Avenue Historic District. As noted in the CBID board packet, “glass is broken and falling off in some areas.” Repairing the existing upper floor windows and removing the existing awning is also part of the plan, the May 11 city memo from Senior Planner Brenda Andrews states.
According to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s resources form, the structure at 504-506 Garrison Ave. is known as the Manhattan Cafe & Rooming House, or the Roberts Building.