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Fayetteville, Ark., Creating New Downtown Cultural Arts Civic Plaza

Wed June 29, 2022 - Southeast Edition
City of Fayetteville & Arkansas Money & Politics

The West Avenue Civic Plaza includes a central lawn, promenade, arts gardens, trails and more. Two buildings are proposed as anchors for the south and north ends of the Civic Plaza. (Rendering courtesy of the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas)
The West Avenue Civic Plaza includes a central lawn, promenade, arts gardens, trails and more. Two buildings are proposed as anchors for the south and north ends of the Civic Plaza. (Rendering courtesy of the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas)

The city of Fayetteville, Ark., has been working diligently on various construction projects in its downtown, including the West Avenue Civic Plaza, a key element of the community's Cultural Arts Corridor development

Once the project is finished, the plaza will be renamed "The Ramble," and become a place that helps link Fayetteville's cultural and natural attractions with the downtown and entertainment district, Arkansas Money & Politics (AMP) reported in mid-June.

An online description of the project, from the city's official website, described The Ramble as a "corridor … designed to be a dynamic new 50-acre outdoor public space that will help to revitalize Fayetteville's downtown area and create a destination for residents and visitors alike."

By connecting the Fayetteville's key cultural institutions — including the Walton Arts Center, TheatreSquared, the Nadine Baum Studios, the Fayetteville Public Library and the University of Arkansas' Art and Design District — the corridor will showcase and celebrate the community's local arts culture.

"It will also enhance civic space and serve as a catalyst for additional development and density in the downtown area, increasing bike trails and connections, and improving streets and walkability," the city noted.

The creation of The Ramble is funded, in part, by a $226 million public infrastructure bond package approved by Fayetteville voters in April 2019.

Since then, Fayetteville has invested more than $31 million in the corridor's development of The Ramble, which includes the Fay Jones Woods — with streetscape and trail improvements — in addition to a new 300-space parking deck at West Avenue and Dickson Street, and a civic space featuring an anchor building.

AMP noted that a green space for events, a public plaza, garden spaces and a civic promenade are all designed to be within The Ramble, and the city believes its building site, anchoring the southern end of the project, will create a dynamic and experiential place. The land that it will be built upon is between Fayetteville's downtown square and the University of Arkansas campus, next to the Razorback Regional Greenway.

March 2024 is set as the month that construction on Fayetteville's new Cultural Arts Corridor/The Ramble will be wrapped up, AMP reported.

City Set Lofty Goals for The Ramble

There are five primary elements included in plans for The Ramble project: The West Avenue Civic Space, the West Avenue streetscapes, the Fay Jones Woods, the Razorback Greenway and a new parking deck at the corner of West and Dickson streets. The work is being conducted in two phases, the city noted.

Construction of the corridor's first phase is under way, AMP reported, after the project received a $10 million bond allocation, and the design and bidding were completed for replacement parking. Earlier, a $10.3 million bond paid for the creation of the new woodlands, designed to allow maximum preservation of the forest. That part of the project has since been completed.

With the new car deck to be built at West and Dickson, the parking needs of The Ramble and Dickson Street, the city's entertainment district, will be more adequately and efficiently served, AMP noted.

The news site also reported that the civic space's construction is moving apace, with a finish predicted for early 2023.

Fayetteville's Master Plan Thoughtfully Created

Innovative development proposals for the southern anchor building are currently being sought by the city, which wants both beautiful and exceptional architectural quality and materials befitting the location, AMP noted. With the vision of the building being a model demonstration of high-quality urban design, Fayetteville wants its plan to be a standard-bearer for the future of downtown development.

The city's downtown master plan, which was created in 2004 and adopted by the Fayetteville City Council, has six fundamental strategies, including attracting more people to live downtown, creating smart parking and interconnecting popular places.

AMP reported that pedestrian improvements are already under way. That effort is working from an allocation of $3 million to improve Fayetteville's downtown sidewalks, lighting, curb ramps and other pedestrian needs.

With the goal in mind to create a connection between the Dickson Street Entertainment District and the Downtown District, the Spring Street lighting project will help people to feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings while walking along the avenue.

With the Church Avenue and Meadow Street construction now complete, work has shifted to the Prairie Street and West Avenue project, also dedicated to better walkability. Fayetteville's city engineering division recently completed the design for this phase of the overall project, and construction is expected to begin later this year or in early 2023.

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