Vision, Action Lead To Award-Winning Results in Downtown Conway

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

The Conway Downtown Partnership has been in existence since 2001 as part of the Action for Conway’s Tomorrow initiative. The partnership launched a master plan for the downtown area.

In the last decade, Conway’s downtown has received a facelift. The Conway Downtown Partnership transformed the downtown into a hub that offers everything from arts to specialty retail shops.

The effort has paid off.

“Downtown Conway is diverse in terms of what people can do, buy, and see while here,” said Kim Williams, executive director of the Conway Downtown Partnership. “Downtown Conway is booming like never before.”

The city’s efforts earned it a 2012 Arkansas Business City of Distinction award for Main Street Preservation.

The roots of Conway’s initiatives date to the mid 1990s when the city created Action for Conway’s Tomorrow. In 2001, that group launched Conway Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit organization that targets the promotion, planning and maintenance of downtown Conway.

One of the Partnership’s first moves was hiring the architectural and urban design firm, Sakal & Hood Inc. of Chicago, to create a master plan of development for downtown Conway.

The result was “Conway 2015: A Vision for Success,” which provided a blueprint for how to improve the downtown. In 2002, the city of Conway adopted the plan.

“To date, the plan has served as the foundation for development in downtown,” Williams said.

The public and private investors supported the plan.

Here are some of the key projects that helped turn around downtown Conway:

In 2003, the CDP, the city of Conway and the Conway Corp., which owns the city’s utilities, tackled downtown Conway’s first streetscape and public way improvement project. On Front Street, between Main and Oak streets, the developed streetscape includes period lighting, brick pavers, planters and landscaping. The overhead utilities were buried and the drainage was improved. “To date, approximately $1.2 million in streetscape improvements have been completed throughout downtown,” Williams said. The city of Conway recently added improvements to Main Street.

In 2005, Mike’s Place opened in downtown Conway and was one of the few Conway restaurants allowed to sell alcohol in dry Faulkner County. The restaurant “was the spark that has been a major catalyst in attracting more” restaurants, Williams said. “The success of the $2.5 million, 9,000-SF hot spot was the CDP’s first step in creating a bustling, 24-7 downtown.”



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