Council Rezones College Avenue

City plans arts corridor with Walton financing


Andrew Garner (from left), Fayetteville planning director, Terry Gulley, transportation director, Garner Stoll, development services director, Kyle Smith, council member, Sarah Marsh, council member, Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Matthew Petty, council member, pause on College Avenue in Fayetteville. The officials toured from Maple to North Street to look at zoning options to encourage development friendly to pedestrians with good architecture design.

The Fayetteville City Council on Dec. 5 took the first steps toward making College Avenue a more pedestrian-oriented, shop-friendly corridor where people can live, work and play, following months of discussion and proposal changes.

The council approved two proposals, one rezoning College Avenue from Maple to North streets and another to apply downtown’s architectural standards to that stretch. The first item passed unanimously while the second passed 7-1, with Sarah Marsh casting the dissenting vote.

Garner Stoll, Development Services director, said the point was to take a highway and put in the regulatory framework to create a walkable Main Street. The city first took up the proposal in April, bouncing it between the council and Planning Commission and two subcommittees.

The council agreed on two changes Dec. 5. One put gasoline stations and drive-throughs among conditional uses for the stretch, meaning new ones would require a permit from the Planning Commission. The other limited all of the buildings within the overlay district to four stories.

Residents in the Washington-Willow and Wilson Park neighborhoods near the stretch came out during the early months of the proposal to speak against a rezoning to allow large, student-type housing. Different provisions addressing building height went in and out of the proposal before the council agreed on the four-story limit Tuesday.

A previous revision to city code changed building height measurement from feet to stories. City staff first brought up rezoning College Avenue because many of the current buildings, with long setbacks from the right of way and parking lots with numerous curb cuts, didn’t comply with modern-day standards. City crews have built 10-foot-wide sidewalks with LED streetlights on the east side of the stretch and are working on doing the same to the west side.

The council debated the setback requirements as the final wrinkle to iron out. Marsh proposed buildings should be able to run flush to the sidewalk up to 10 feet back. Council member Matthew Petty said the rule as proposed, with a setback of 10 to 25 feet, was adequate for now.

One of the newer businesses on College Avenue in Fayetteville viewed by city officials on a walking tour on Dec. 4.

Marsh said the extra space makes it so people have room to throw cigarette butts and trash and that it creates an inconsistent streetscape. Petty said the 10-foot-wide sidewalks won’t sustain a future mixed-use development hub and there needs to be enough room to make them bigger to accommodate more foot traffic or plazas.

The city toured the area Monday, where Marsh said 25 feet seemed too long. She used Lacuna Modern Furniture as an example of a well-designed building that would be out of compliance because it’s right next to the sidewalk.

Marsh’s amendment to change the setback failed 7-1.

In other business, the council accepted a nearly $1.8 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to design a cultural arts corridor. The city was one of three others to receive a grant for such an endeavor.

The foundation will pay world-renowned designers to come up with outdoor elements on about 12 acres the city owns downtown. Examples include plazas, festival spaces, places for parking, natural spaces and streetscape enhancements.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan has talked about a Times Square equivalent for Fayetteville. Chief of Staff Don Marr said the designers will consider the interests of downtown patrons, the Walton Arts Center, Dickson Street Merchants Association, the library, TheatreSquared and other stakeholders.

Peter Nierengarten, sustainability and parking director, estimated the work could amount to $15-$20 million in improvements to be paid for through a voter-approved bond program.

Petty said something like a cultural arts district can outlast governments.

“This is the kind of the thing that will define not just who we are, but who our great-grandchildren in Fayetteville think Fayettevillians are,” he said. “It’s really hard to overstate the impact of this on future generations or the value of it today.”

One of the older properties on College Avenue.


Next meeting

The council left on its first reading an item to renew the $98,000 contract with Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas to provide recreation services at the senior center. City Attorney Kit Williams said he would work on terms of the contract that would allow the city to have a say in the hiring of a new center director.

Cayla Wilson, the director, served her last day in the role Nov. 21. Four residents spoke Dec. 5, some bringing up Wilson and praising her work, others asking the city to look into taking over operations at the center.

Discussion of the item will resume at the next meeting.

When: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 19

Where: Room 219, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.

Categories: In The News