FAYETTEVILLE -- The new downtown parking deck is open.
The six-story, 301-space building on West Avenue opened to the public Friday. The deck will replace the 290 spaces lost once the 3-acre parking lot west of the Walton Arts Center becomes a civic plaza of the arts corridor, known as the Ramble.
The city broke ground on the parking deck in January 2022. The total cost of the deck is about $13 million. Most of the money for the deck and the rest of the arts corridor is coming from a $31.6 million bond issue voters approved in April 2019.
Residents who saw the deck Friday evening had mixed feelings about it. Alyssa Goddu of Springdale parked in the deck on her way to Hammontree's Grilled Cheese to meet friends.
The lack of parking space numbers threw her off a little bit. The deck uses a license plate system instead. Goddu said she probably would've forgotten her license plate numbers and letters if she had walked to the payment kiosk from a spot farther away.
Usually Goddu parks at the lot in front of Hammontree's when she parks in downtown Fayetteville. She didn't know the new parking deck was open until she drove up to it. She liked that it was well-lit at night.
Its placement downtown seemed odd, Goddu said. There are a lot of buildings and cars and people packed onto that part of West Avenue, she said.
"It seems very out of place, aesthetically," she said.
Morgan Little and her brother Jason of Fayetteville paid to park at the Walton Arts Center lot on Friday evening. Jason Little said it would have made more sense to build the deck somewhere within the Walton Arts Center lot area, where people are already used to parking.
Morgan Little said she's excited about the lot becoming an outdoor gathering space. Parks play a big part in what people love about the city, she said.
"I wish that parking garage didn't block the views," Morgan Little said. "That kind of is disappointing. But I understand why they did it."
She said the deck could use something to spruce it up, and was glad to know a mural will eventually be painted on the long wall facing south.
"It looks like a gray blob in the sky right now," Morgan Little said. "I'm excited to see how the mural turns out. I was expecting something a little more funky Fayetteville."
The city put out a news release Thursday saying all cars need to be gone from the Walton Arts Center lot by 5 a.m. Monday.
Construction on the civic plaza is estimated to last until August, according to Wade Abernathy, bond projects and construction manager for the city.
Conceptual drawings for the plaza show a canal pumping water from Tanglewood Branch and a walkway that crisscross the space. A large, grassy area for events with a stage will sit as the centerpiece. Gardens, seating areas and art installations will be sprinkled throughout.
The part of the arts corridor with the civic plaza will be known as the "Upper Ramble." The "Lower Ramble," which turned the Fay Jones woods to the south into a nature attraction complete with boardwalks, performance areas and native vegetation, finished construction in September 2022.
All together, The Ramble will encompass a 50-acre outdoor public space "that will help to revitalize Fayetteville's downtown area and create a destination for residents and visitors alike," the release says.
The Walton Arts Center has been communicating with ticket-holders for several weeks about the closure of the parking lot, which is across West Avenue from the center, said Jennifer Wilson, center spokeswoman.
"This comes at a good time for us because our only large show in the house is 'The Cher Show' Nov. 19 and 21 for three performances," she said. "City parking staff and Walton Arts Center staff will be on site to assist patrons during these first performances. This should give patrons time to be aware of and get adjusted to the change before our holiday programming kicks off in December."
Property owners Greg House and Ted Belden received $250,000 from the city for the portion of land it needed to build the deck. Farmers and Merchants Bank also received $100,000 from the city. The bank used to own the corner at West Avenue and Dickson Street and the "train bank" of Bank of Fayetteville before it closed in September. House and Belden now own that portion of the lot.
House and Belden plan to build a hotel where the train bank once sat. The sixth floor of the parking deck has about 40 spaces owned by the pair for use for the planned hotel's guests. House and Belden also reserved the right to build a seventh floor on top of the deck, per the terms of the contract with the city. House has said the seventh floor may become condominiums or offices. The pair also have space reserved on the ground floor for some type of retail use.
A police substation lies within the ground floor of the parking deck for officers assigned to patrol the entertainment district. Officers are not stationed there yet.
Buildings are planned for the southern and northern ends of the civic plaza. A seven-story hotel is in development by Brian Reindl and his Reindl Properties company for the southern end. The City Council recently approved a contract to sell half an acre at the southern end of the lot to Reindl for nearly $1.25 million to build the hotel.
A building referred to as a "food hall" is planned for the northern end of the lot. House and Belden are developing that project as part of the land deal for the parking deck.
The city has adjusted parking rates with the opening of the West Avenue parking deck. To see the changes, to go:
Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette
See the plans for the civic plaza of The Ramble at:
Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette