A statue of American frontier icon Isaac C. Parker, federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Western Arkansas in Fort Smith in the late 19th century, is envisioned for a new park downtown.
At Tuesday’s Central Business Improvement District Commission meeting, planners proposed creating Gateway Park at the intersection of Garrison and Rogers avenues downtown, adjacent to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, by merging 1300 Garrison Ave. with Harwood Park.
BancorpSouth has agreed to donate Harwood Park to 64.6 Downtown for the project. The park honors former bank president Jim Harwood.
“This is going to be an absolutely gorgeous entryway to downtown Fort Smith,” Jim Spears told the CBID. “This has been a dream of mine for a long time.”
The retired Sebastian County Circuit Judge and U.S. Marshals Museum board member also told CBID commissioners he has contacted sculptor Harold Holden for the project. It would be the second project for Holden in Fort Smith if it came to fruition. Holden created the statue of U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves at Ross Pendergraft Park downtown, a project on which Spears was a driving force until it was installed in 2012.
Spears noted that the Gateway Park project is a private-public partnership, with Studio 6 Architects, the Griffin Family and 64.6 Downtown. Ownership would be transferred to the city of Fort Smith once it is completed, a news release states.
A cost estimate of the project was not available Tuesday. Spears said the size of the statue would be determined by the artist. A site visit with Holden is in the works. Spears, however, noted that the Bass Reeves statue alone cost about $200,000.
A vibrantly colored building at 1300 Garrison, painted during the first Unexpected mural festival would be demolished to make room for the statue. Some of the white oak trees, which measure about 15 inches in diameter, may also have be lost during construction of the park, Rick Griffin pointed out.
In other business, the CBID gave its approval to a potential demolition of the former Bercher Tire building at 23 N. 11th St.
Stuart Ghan of Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties said the structure was considered “non-contributing” in historical value and its demolition would be to promote creation of an “East End Park” adjacent to Cisterna Plaza and the Gen. William O. Darby statue.
“Cost-wise, the redevelopment of that whole parcel makes more sense to better suit, hopefully, residents in the future, as well as reorganize how parking is done over there,” Ghan said.
A timeline for the demolition was not available.
In addition, the CBID gave suggestions to City Administrator Carl Geffken on provisions for leasing of parking spaces downtown and potential ways to mitigate truck traffic.