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Strategy calls for building a city of neighborhoods.

Building a strong sense of community and capitalizing on Fort Smiths rich history and Arkansas River are crucial components of the comprehensive plan enacted by the city of Fort Smith's board of directors. The document is a vision, as well as a step-by-step process for creating a City of Neighborhoods.

The comprehensive plan outlines broad economic and community development goals as well as specific land use considerations. According to the plan, a City of Neighborhoods should "retain educated youth by creating diverse urban lifestyles, cultural opportunities, attractive, abundant recreational opportunities, and higher-wage professional employment."

When the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce hired TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas, in late 2003, the economic development consulting firm quickly explained to the public that creating a "quality of place" is a necessary step toward creating jobs and promoting economic prosperity. While the TIP Strategies report won't be released until Later this month, implementation of the city of Fort Smith's comprehensive plan is already under way.

Dean Kruithof, deputy Fort Smith city administrator, said, "The TIP Strategies recommendations will complement the comprehensive plan goals for continuing to develop more than 7,000 acres at Chaffee Crossing; for emphasizing riverfront development, city parks and greenways, and for promoting downtown and historic tourism."

The City of Neighborhoods concept centers on protection and revitalization of existing neighborhoods. With these goals in mind, Fort Smith city directors have approved a number of zoning changes that protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods. Also, the board has adopted an ordinance that requires minimum maintenance standards for homes and businesses in the oldest sections of the city.

Kruithof said, "Knowing that minimum maintenance standards might pose a hardship for some homeowners, city staffers are working with neighborhood organizations, churches, civic groups and the Fort Smith Community Clearinghouse. The resulting City of Good Neighbors Program helps eligible homeowners access federal funding and a network of volunteers who can help revitalize homes which don't meet minimum structural and safety standards."

The ultimate goal of maintenance standards and tighter zoning restrictions is to create safe, enjoyable environments in every Fort Smith neighborhood. The city already enjoys a diverse array of neighborhoods with affordable housing--from charming cottages built in the early 1900s to newly constructed homes designed with 21st-century amenities.

Housing in downtown Fort Smith ranges from $450 to around $1,300 per month. First-time buyers can purchase a dream home of 1,400 SF for around $85,000. Upscale executive homes of more than 3,000 SF are generally priced at under $300,000.

Earlier this year, Fort Smith acquired rights to provide water and sewer service to Land in south Sebastian County, between Greenwood and Fort Smith city limits. Kruithof says the resulting housing development in that area will be tantamount to landing a new industry. "The TIP Strategies consultants have explained that new residential development has the same economic impact as recruiting an industry," he said. "Plus when we build new neighborhoods, it enhances our chances for recruiting another industry or enticing young professionals to either locate in Fort Smith or to come home to settle down and raise a family."

In addition, during the past 20 years of Fort Smith's Capital Improvements Program, residents have seen more than 75 percent of their streets either resurfaced or reconstructed. Fort Smith continues to improve its infrastructure--one home, one neighborhood and one street at a time--with the ultimate goal of continuing to provide safe, comfortable environments for every citizen.
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Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:May 2, 2005
Previous Article:Chamber's 'Together' campaign nets $4.45 million.
Next Article:The business of Fort Smith's heritage.

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