New initiative combines tradition with innovation
Fayetteville, Arkansas, is home to traditional manufacturing companies, a top research university, and high-tech startups. Separately, these entities do well. Together, they can accomplish much more. This is the idea behind “Fayetteville Connect: Together We Achieve,” a new initiative launched by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.
“We are the third-largest community in the state and among the most diverse,” Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber, says. “What was once a sleepy university town has blossomed into city with a technology park, a teaching medical school and traditional manufacturing. All of these things are Fayetteville and together, we achieve.”
Innovation Fuels Growth
The new initiative encompasses key developments that span from the town square to busy College Avenue. The Chamber’s move to the square’s Bradberry Building puts the agency at the heart of what will become a designated Innovation District. In the same building, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will offer a maker space with 3D printers, CNC machines, and other equipment for prototyping and designing products.
When workers finish renovation of the 80-year-old building, it will include extra meeting space, local artwork and an installation comprising multiple flat-screen TVs that will display an ongoing image slideshow.
“That’s what innovation is—change,” Clark says.
Across the street, another historic building holds the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History as well as Startup Junkie Consulting, which fosters emerging start-up/venture ecosystems. Nearby, in the former post office building, Hayseed Ventures, a venture capital fund, identifies and funds early-stage start-ups.
“Having Startup Junkie, Hayseed, the Innovation Hub and the UA together ensures creative collisions between talent, capital and existing business can happen naturally over a cup of coffee or a cold beer,” says Jeff Amerine, Startup Junkie founding principal and Innovate Arkansas adviser. “Making it easy to collaborate is a key aspect of any successful venture scene.”
College Avenue Flourishes
College Avenue development will also help attract new residents and businesses to Fayetteville.
“College Avenue is the backbone of Fayetteville,” Clark says of the busy four-lane highway. “We want to create destinations on College that people can walk, bike, or drive to, and for more than one purpose.”
The College Avenue plan includes sidewalk and street tree improvements and a flyover bridge that has already contributed to development. The flyover played a key role in attracting a Whole Foods Market, which will anchor College Marketplace, a sprawling shopping center filled with retail and restaurants.
“Whole Foods has always considered Fayetteville an important market for its brand,” Jeff Garrison, partner for developer S.J. Collins Enterprises, says. “The city’s investment in the College Avenue flyover and Masonic Avenue traffic signal created the perfect location.”
Whole Foods and College Marketplace, which Garrison says is now 100 percent leased, will likely bring even more business to the surrounding area.
“I anticipate that the College Avenue corridor will experience a tremendous amount of new investment as other retailers look to capture some of the customers that Whole Foods will bring to College Marketplace on a daily basis,” Garrison says.
The Move for Public Art
While the city works to beautify College Avenue, Fayetteville High School students will lend their artistic talents to canvases throughout town. The Chamber partnered with the school to create a public mural a year for five years. “We see public art as a way to tell our story from the minds of the younger generation,” Clark says.
Fayetteville’s commitment to tradition, technology, and redevelopment has helped it become the fastest-growing city in Arkansas, according to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau report. Its latest initiatives have the potential to fuel even more growth.
“The city’s vision for Fayetteville and, more importantly, its work to make that vision a reality, is remarkable,” Garrison says. “Our experience in Fayetteville has been unmatched.”