Walnut Ridge: Music Lovers Targeted in Efforts To Revive City's Downtown

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Aug. 22, 2011 12:00 am  

Snapp and J.R. Rogers, former Walnut Ridge mayor and Arkansas legislator, partnered this month to offer no- or low-rent commercial space in the city’s downtown to draw new businesses. In exchange for the cut-rate rent, businesses must commit to renovating the dilapidated structures fully and then paying higher rent after five years.

Snapp named the program “Invest in Your Dreams.”

In an email to chamber leaders and other Walnut Ridge property owners, he said, “The idea is, if a person has a workable business plan, that generates jobs and sales tax, along with some money to invest in renovating the property, we will work with them on a discounted rental price.”

So far, two of Snapp’s properties have been mostly demolished and will be replaced by Beatles Park.

A new frozen yogurt shop with an art gallery in two storefronts and an art and handmade gift store are among the first takers of Snapp’s discount-rent offer. 

“There’s an excitement going on. They know we believe, or we wouldn’t be investing,” Snapp said.

Rogers and Snapp plan to approach other landowners who have vacant commercial buildings to ask them to partner in working to attract new businesses to the area.

“It’s a good thing. I want to be part of good things,” Rogers said. “I just hated to see all the old buildings I grew up around … disappear, so I bought them.”

Rogers has lived in the community for decades, owns the store All Star Music in town and was the author of the legislation that renamed the section of U.S. 67 that cuts through Walnut Ridge.  He also owns eight storefronts in addition to All Star and a shopping center in the downtown area.

Rogers is offering reduced rent on his eight empty, rundown stores as part of Snapp’s program.

The 13 storefronts that have sold in Walnut Ridge (including the seven Snapp bought) in the past six months may not all directly be linked to the tourism committee’s efforts, but Snapp and other community leaders see them as good omens.

According to Snapp, two current Walnut Ridge business proprietors bought four of the 13 shops, two of which they already occupied. JDW Inc. of Jonesboro bought stores housing a beauty salon and a new restaurant.

The sale of 13 of about 36 total downtown storefronts represents more commercial transactions than Walnut Ridge saw in the previous 10 years combined, Snapp said.

West, the metal worker, is opening the yogurt shop and says he believes the town can support new business, in addition to the existing stores.

“Our town really needs some zip, for lack of a better term,” he said. “We’ve got some momentum and I just want to build on that."



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