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Sherwood is establishing an entertainment district that officials hope will eventually grow into the city's arts and entertainment hub.

City Council members unanimously approved an ordinance last week to establish and designate the district, and all ordinances and resolutions that are inconsistent with the provisions of the new ordinance have been repealed.

Colleen Carr, the city's director of economic development, said the entertainment district is part of an effort to create a downtown vibe for a city that doesn't have an established Main Street.

"The idea is to have a place for people to gather and to give Sherwood an identity," Carr said of the city of approximately 31,000 that is nestled between North Little Rock and Jacksonville. "We want this area to eventually be a historic arts and entertainment district for the city."

The entertainment district will have a southern boundary that starts at the Sherwood Public Works facility, extends west to the area comprising a shopping area and Gadwall's Grill, north to The Greens at North Hills, and to the east at Fred Rains Drive. The ordinance says that property inside the entertainment district was already zoned for this purpose.

"We made the borders pretty large to give us room to grow," said Marina Brooks, chairman of the Advertising and Promotions Commission and a Ward 3 City Council member. "It will most likely be confined to the intersection of North Hills [Boulevard] and Country Club [Road] for now."

Sherwood is the latest in a growing number of cities around the state that have established entertainment districts, with some considering such a move after the passage of Act 812, sponsored earlier this year by state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado. The act gives cities the authority to set reasonable standards for the regulation of alcohol possession within such districts.

Little Rock, El Dorado and Mountain Home already have entertainment districts. Texarkana, Hot Springs, Harrison, Fayetteville and Bentonville are working on or are considering establishing such districts.

The area where Sherwood's entertainment district is being created is one of the original parts of the city, Brooks said.

"We used to have a hardware store, a pharmacy, a bank, a little family grocery store. There was a lot of commerce there in the beginning," Brooks said. "That has all gone by the wayside. We wanted to get it back again."

The city's Economic Development Office will determine the dates and times the district will be open. Patrons who buy alcoholic beverages from a permitted establishment within the district may drink in public outside the point of purchase and in public spaces within the district as long as the beverage is in a properly branded container purchased within the district.

Alcoholic beverages purchased within the entertainment district cannot be removed from the district, according to the ordinance, and alcoholic beverages bought outside the district cannot be consumed within it.

Officials have not set a date for the opening of the entertainment district, but Carr said they hope it will open sometime in October. State law requires the opening to be at least 30 days after passage of the ordinance, Brooks said.

"We are working with the [Chamber of Commerce] to have a big opening event, but nothing has been set in stone yet," she said. "We wanted to get it done upfront, but we aren't in a rush to open. We are going to be slow, correct and careful."

There are three restaurants within the district -- Gadwall's Grill on North Hills Boulevard, Rocky's on Country Club Road and Joey's Bar and Grill on Arkansas 107 -- and Carr said the district's boundaries were created with all of them in mind.

"Gadwall's is one of our most famous restaurants," Carr said. "Rocky's was a popular restaurant in North Little Rock that became a food truck and is now back to brick and mortar, and Joey's is located at the golf course. We have talked at length with all of them, and we are all excited to see how this turns out."

Mobile vendors, or "food trucks," will be allowed to locate and operate within the entertainment district. Vendors will be allowed to leave their trucks and trailers within the district and will not be required to remove them from the area overnight.

"First we get the food trucks out there, and then we are hoping to get an outdoor stage for some local acts," Carr said.

Vendors who wish to locate and conduct business within the entertainment district will have to have leases or similar agreements granting permission to set up at specific locations. Each will be required to obtain a 12-month District Privilege License and a Sherwood Advertising and Promotions permit, and they will have to maintain all other licenses and permits required by law.

The Metropolitan Land Group owns most of the area where the food trucks will be located, and leasing has begun.

"It's already filling up pretty quickly," Carr said. "The Metropolitan Land Group is talking about adding electricity, water and some pads out there for the food trucks. I think these vendors are excited about having a permanent location."

Changing the perception of Sherwood is one of the primary goals of creating the entertainment district, Brooks said.

"We don't have anything in Sherwood at the moment," she said. "People go to North Little Rock and Little Rock. We don't have a movie theater or a skating rink or things like that. We are hoping to have some entertainment in Sherwood.

"We always hear that the only thing you can do in Sherwood is go to sleep. We are hoping to show everyone we are more than a bedroom town."

The entertainment district is part of a bigger plan the city wants to implement in the coming years.

"We have this four corners outlook," Carr said. "If this is successful, we might do something similar at the Woodland Town Center area. This is a test case to see how it goes."

A Section on 09/03/2019

Print Headline: Sherwood touts vision for entertainment area; goal is to create city hub, officials say

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