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Arts panel supports Fay Jones-inspired medians for College Avenue in Fayetteville

Fay Jones-inspired look preferred over Googie architecture style by Stacy Ryburn | December 25, 2022 at 1:05 a.m.
An artist’s rendering shows what medians placed along College Avenue in Fayetteville may look like as part of the city’s 71B Corridor Plan. The city’s Arts Council supported the Fay Jones-inspired designs during its meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (Courtesy Photo/RDG Planning & Design)

FAYETTEVILLE -- A little hint of Fay Jones likely will dot the streetscape of College Avenue.

The city's Arts Council on Wednesday reviewed preliminary drawings for medians to be placed along College Avenue from North Street to near the Northwest Arkansas Mall. The medians are part of the city's 71B Corridor Plan, which kicked off in 2018. The plan aims to get car traffic flowing better along the corridor, make pedestrian and bicycle pathways safer, add bus shelters and transit lanes and improve the overall aesthetic.

Cary Thomsen with hired consultant RDG Planning & Design in Omaha, Neb., presented the panel with two potential themes for the medians, which he referred to as gateways for certain sections of the stretch. One theme was inspired by the works of Fay Jones, a well-known architect from Fayetteville who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The other theme took inspiration from Googie architecture, a style that was prominent in the United States from the mid-1940s to the 1970s featuring bright Space Age signs intended to attract drivers from highways to businesses such as restaurants, hotels and gas stations.

The panel, after about 45 minutes of discussion, opted for the Fay Jones theme. Working artists and professionals in arts-related industries comprise the panel, which advises the City Council on arts-related matters.

Thomsen said the plan is to have six or so decorative medians placed on College Avenue. The designs of the medians will influence other aspects of the corridor's streetscape, meaning decorative elements such as street lighting, vegetation or art installations.

The consultant firm is still working on designs for a separate section of the 71B corridor, which is South School Avenue from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Cato Springs Road. It's possible the designers could use the Googie theme on those medians, Thomsen said.

The drawings of the Fay Jones-inspired medians feature steel towers about 15 feet tall that light up at night with trees and grasses sitting in concrete and stone platforms. Arts council members said they liked the simplicity and consistent theme representing the city.

Chloe Bell, a member of the council who works as community engagement manager at Experience Fayetteville, the city's tourism bureau, said she liked the upscale sense of placemaking the Fay Jones medians would provide. The timeless nature of the theme should bode well with any changes in development along the corridor, she said.

"I think that if there were more 'out-there' pieces in the center it could be a bit distracting while driving," Bell said. "I think these Fay Jones pieces, especially if they were glowing, would be subtle and have an impact without being distracting."

Council Chairwoman Jessica DeBari wondered if onlookers would mistake the towers as cell towers or unfinished pieces of construction. Members said they felt the work of Fay Jones is recognizable enough throughout town that people would understand the pieces as art.

Council member Bob Stafford said Googie-style signs were common on College Avenue between North and Township streets decades ago, but the Fay Jones medians appeared more elegant. Plus, Googie-style art was commonplace throughout the United States, especially along U.S. Route 66. The Fay Jones pieces are more specific to Fayetteville, he said.

Estimates on what the medians with the artistic elements may cost are not yet available.

Construction on a section between North and Sycamore streets should begin midway next year, Public Works Director Chris Brown said. Work will include medians as well as sidewalks, asphalt and traffic lights. Estimated cost of the section is $6 million, he said. Money to do the work associated with the 71B Corridor Plan was included in a transportation bond issue voters approved in 2019.

The same art concept will be used throughout the College Avenue portion of the project, Brown said. The sculptures and artistic elements within the medians may be built separately from the bases for the medians, he said.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation provided the city $1.5 million in federal aid for improvements to College Avenue when the stretch of the street running through the city was taken off the list of state highways a few years ago, Brown said. The city also received a $1.8 million grant through the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission to do the work, bringing total federal aid available to $3.3 million, he said.

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71B Corridor

To see slides of concepts for medians along College Avenue in Fayetteville, go to:

To learn more about Fayetteville’s 71B Corridor Plan, go to:


Print Headline: Arts panel eyes themes for medians


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