FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFTA) — Fayetteville has grand plans for the upcoming Cultural Arts Corridor, and at the heart of those plans is Civic Plaza.
“Fayetteville is a growing and thriving community. There’s been a lot of attention and focus on our downtown area and redevelopment and reinvestment in our downtown, but Fayetteville has never really had a true downtown gathering place or downtown park associated with it,” said Peter Nierengarten, environmental director for the City of Fayetteville. “This is an opportunity to create such a space that will in my opinion capitalize, enhance what’s already great about Downtown Fayetteville and Dickson Street and make those qualities and those amenities even better by attracting a more diverse demographic of people to Downtown Fayetteville and Dickson Street and attract those people at different times of the year when there are lulls in the activity along Dickson Street and in Downtown Fayetteville. And it creates the ability to host new and different types of festivals and events to fill in some of those lulls and attract those different demographics.”
Civic Plaza will be located in the space where the large parking lot across from the Walton Arts Center is currently at.
“We’ve had the parking lot for many, many years and it’s been the focus of a lot of intense discussion and debate,” Nierengarten said. “Right in the middle of our downtown sits some of the most valuable real estate that exists in all of Northwest Arkansas. There’s a lot of discussion on what the community should do with that space. Should it continue to be a service parking lot or can it have a higher and better use?”
The Arts Corridor will link cultural institutions — including the Walton Arts Center, TheatreSquared’s new performing arts venue, Nadine Baum Studios, Fayetteville Public Library and the University of Arkansas’ Art and Design District — and will activate the outdoor environment, the Fay Jones Woods, between Dickson and Prairie Streets with amenities designed to enhance experiences for both city residents and visitors from cities and towns near and afar, according to the City of Fayetteville website.
The Corridor will feature new and improved sidewalks along West Avenue to help provide connectivity between the institutions within the Arts Corridor. The Razorback Greenway will also play a key part in Arts Corridor connectivity, according to Nierengarten.
“What we’re doing is connecting the Razorback Greenway to West Avenue and the cultural arts institutions to West Avenue,” Nierengarten said. “We’re not building new stuff all the way to the university, but where there’s connections already to the university, we’re extending those connections to Theater Squared, Walton Arts Center [and] to the library.”
Civic Plaza will have a variety of unique features that will lend toward exciting events and recreational possibilities.
The plaza will feature a large central green space, a lawn that can also be used as an amphitheater, an area that can serve as a stage for that amphitheater and host concerts and movies, outdoor seating, gardens, a water feature, pathways, a promenade along west avenue and two buildings.
The city will create new parking decks since the parking lot across from the Walton Arts Center is being eliminated for Civic Plaza. Potential locations include a School Avenue location directly across the street from the Walton Arts Center office, as well as the northwest corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue, directly across the street from Civic Plaza.
Fayetteville residents voted in a special election on April 9, 2019, in favor of a Bond issue that includes up to $31,685,000 for the construction of the Cultural Arts Corridor. The city also received $1.77 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to fund the design of a premiere outdoor space.
“The Cultural Arts Corridor will seamlessly blend the arts and the outdoors in way that invites pedestrians and improves accessibility,” said Jeremy Pate, senior program officer with the Walton Family Foundation. “The vision for the corridor aligns with the Design Excellence Program’s commitment to building places for people by focusing on how they experience a public space.”
Fay Jones Woods will be at the corridor’s southern end.
“That land has been in the city’s possession for nearly 20 years, and there’s the same questions, ‘What could be a higher use for this wooded area along our trail where we got a lot of invasive, undesirable plants growing,'” Nierengarten said.
Civic Plaza will provide folks a variety of experiences in a way similar to the experiences provided by Gathering Place in Tulsa.
“One primary advantage we have over them is that ours is going to be much more urban and connected to the surrounding fabric of the downtown, versus there’s [which] is a little bit more set off. You’re strolling down Dickson Street and, hey, you can just veer off and you’re right there. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a destination,” Nierengarten said.
The Arts Corridor is expected to be completed at the end of 2023.