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Fayetteville council approves parking deck land contract

by Stacy Ryburn | March 17, 2021 at 7:22 a.m.
Vehicles are parked in January 2020 in a parking lot near Arsaga's at the Depot in Fayetteville. The City Council on Tuesday accepted a contract dealing with the land and development of a new parking deck in the location. (File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The City Council approved a contract dealing with land for a parking deck downtown and a zoning plan for an annexation at the northeastern city limits after months of discussion on the two issues.

Council members voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve the parking deck contract. Teresa Turk voted against, and Mark Kinion abstained.

The contract will have the city buy a .2-acre lot northwest of Dickson Street and West Avenue to build a potentially seven-story parking deck. The 330-space deck will replace the 290 spaces lost once the lot west of the Walton Arts Center becomes the civic space of the cultural arts corridor downtown.

Under the deal, landowners Greg House and Ted Belden will receive $250,000. Farmers and Merchants Bank, which owns the train bank at the site, will receive $100,000. House and Belden would retain ownership of about 14,000 square feet on the ground floor of the deck to use for retail and commercial space. There also would be space the city would own for a police substation.

Additionally, House and Belden will buy land and the northern end of the civic space facing Dickson Street for $263,000.

Closing date for both transactions is April 1.

A building referred to as a food hall must be built at the northern end of the civic space in accordance with concepts designed by architect Rob Sharp. However, terms in the deal will have the city waive a portion or all of the cost if the planned building meets certain construction milestones within a certain number of years.

If the food hall building is not completed within 10 years, the city will keep the money and retain ownership of the land.

The deal also includes a conservation easement for the depot building housing Chipotle. It also includes enhancement of the freight building housing Arsaga's.

House and Belden would be responsible for building sixth or seventh stories on the deck for additional, private parking. Unrelated to the deal with the city, House and Belden are considering building a hotel at the corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue. The hotel would lie between where the deck would sit facing West Avenue and the food hall building facing Dickson Street.

Construction of the deck is set to begin June. Turning the Walton Arts Center parking lot into the civic space of the arts corridor won't begin until the deck is finished, which should take until August 2022. Completion of the civic plaza is scheduled to finish in September 2023.

Council Member Matthew Petty, whose ward includes that part of town, said the deal addressed his worst-case scenario concerns. The location and project plan will provide amenities a simple deck on School Avenue would not provide, he said. An alternative plan the council considered would have placed the deck across the street from the Spring Street parking deck.

"I think we've got something here that is going to inspire the community for generations, not just for those of us who get to help make it happen," Petty said.

Turk made an extensive case against accepting the deal, saying it favored too heavily on the side of the developers. She said the bond issue to voters approved to create the arts corridor was the least popular among the 10 on the ballot in April 2019, and the deal isn't the best interest of residents.

"In no way is this a fair or equal deal for the Fayetteville taxpayer," Turk said. "This is a private plunder of public funds."

Kinion said he abstained from the vote because he appreciated the vision of the project, but it was too complicated of a deal.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said the deal took trust and required a degree of risk. But, he said the School Avenue option would not enhance the city's downtown like the planned project at Dickson Street and West Avenue.

"I'm going to take full and complete responsibility for this," Jordan said. "If it doesn't work out, you can tell everybody that the mayor brought us the wrong kind of vision."

In other business, the council voted 6-2 to approve a zoning plan for more than 80 acres east of Zion and Crossover roads. Turk and Kinion voted against. About 60 of the acres were annexed into the city by a council vote March 2.

The plan for Chandler Crossing includes 370 residential lots south of Zion Road and Hilton Creek, which runs through the property and feeds into Lake Fayetteville. It also includes a commercial area facing Crossover Road, and about 36 acres of open space, including the area nearest to the creek.

A handful of residents asked the council to vote against the plan, expressing concerns over the impact to the environment and flooding. A number said approval would be counter intuitive to a resolution the council passed March 2 to clean up Lake Fayetteville. One resident, former Council Member Kyle Smith, expressed support. The meeting was held online on Zoom.

Council Member Sonia Gutierrez said she trusted the city's development processes, including its drainage and environmental requirements. The project still has to go through detailed plans addressing those topic, Development Services Director Jonathan Curth said.

Kinion said he felt the project was trying to manage stormwater through engineering, rather than letting the water naturally flow and be treated.

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