Aug. 03–The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted Tuesday to adopt the Propelling Downtown Forward Plan — a guide to revamping downtown and making it more pedestrian-, business- and resident-friendly.
The adoption comes after 64.6 Downtown, the nonprofit that spearheaded the plan, compromised with members of the trucking industry who were concerned that some of the plan’s suggestions for the truck route would hurt their businesses.
Russ Bragg of OK Foods, representing the trucking industry at Tuesday night’s Board of Directors meeting, said he was satisfied with the dialogue with 64.6 Downtown and Dallas-based consulting firm Gateway Planning that addressed those concerns, allowing for caveats for the trucks to be downtown and follow truck routes.
“I think we can now officially propel downtown Fort Smith forward,” he said.
The Propelling Downtown Forward Plan has been added to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, City Administrator Carl Geffken said.
“We’re going to see what we can achieve over time given our resources. This isn’t a stop and drop and we must do it all right now,” he said.
Making downtown more walkable is one of the most important initiatives in the plan, Geffken said.
“You want people to feel comfortable — to look and say, ‘This is an area where I can go shopping, where I can walk around, eat, have fun, shop.’ And when that is missing, or perceived to be missing, you just become a corridor for people to go from one location to the next,” he said. “And downtown Fort Smith is a great place, and we need to showcase that. And making it more walkable will do that.
Geffken sees the revisions related to the truck route as sufficient, he said.
“Those industries that utilize trucks and the trucking industry — They were concerned that despite the fact that the original plan just said that ‘this is a recommendation’ or ‘here’s an option,’ the concern from them was that that option was going to then become reality. And that’s why I believe they so vociferously fought to get that changed. And it’s also the same reason why in the amended resolution the directors wanted to have the ability to appoint members to a committee to discuss this.”
The board voted to adopt the plan in a 6-0 decision with At-large Director Tracy Pennartz absent.
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