Business Owners Applaud Growth of Dickson's Diva

by Serenah McKay  on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 9:33 am  

Fayetteville native Bill Waite remembers when Dickson Street was a rundown, rather seedy place to avoid — hardly the vibrant, upscale entertainment destination it is today for area residents and visitors alike.

The turnaround started in 1992 with the debut of the Walton Arts Center, a 55,000-SF performing arts venue at the southeast corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue.

Private investors have since spent millions establishing restaurants, nightclubs, retail businesses and even condominiums along the stretch from the University of Arkansas campus to College Avenue. These cater largely to the more than 150,000 people from Arkansas and beyond who visit the WAC each year to enjoy big-name performers, take part in a creative arts class or attend a reception or other special event.

And now, as the WAC’s leaders prepare to expand the building’s footprint to add more office, performance and event space, business owners like Waite are looking forward to even more customer traffic — and revenues.

Terri Trotter, the WAC’s COO, said the expansion project is expected to add about 30,000 SF to the building, at a cost of about $20 million. She said the goal is to have the work completed in 2015.

“There was a lot of buzz on the street when they started conceptual plans for the facility,” said Waite, who’s owned Dickson Street Liquor for about 10 years. “I think people finally started to believe it was going to happen, and that the Walton Arts Center was committed to keeping a world-class facility on Dickson Street.”

A member of the WAC’s 20-person board of directors, Waite recently added about 2,600 SF to his own business, partly in anticipation of increased customer traffic generated by the arts center expansion.

Between the WAC project and construction of an adjacent city-owned parking deck, Waite said, “we’re talking about an investment of $25 million or more right in the heart of Dickson Street, and that’s a big deal for downtown Fayetteville.”

“I expect we’ll see this be a catalyst for development throughout the downtown area, much like the original construction of the facility was,” he said.


Room to Move

When big shows like the recent “Shrek: The Musical” or the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker” come to the 1,201-seat Baum Walker Hall, the smaller Starr Theater gets turned into dressing room and storage space, Trotter said, so it’s not available for performances or events at those times.



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