The U.S. Marshals Museum said Thursday that it received consent from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build its 50,000-SF museum on a 16.3-acre riverfront tract in Fort Smith.
The consent agreement reached with the Corps allows the museum to move forward with the property, donated by the Robbie Westphal family. The agreement also permits the museum’s spire, which represents the "America's Star" symbol of the U.S. Marshals Service, to soar more than 90 feet above the easement westward toward the Arkansas River and Oklahoma.
The $50 million museum is expected to open in 2018.
"Today is a major step forward for this project," said Jim Dunn, president and CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum, in a news release. "We appreciate the high degree of cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in addressing the easement issue. This outcome is a win-win, and we could not be more pleased."
The agreement also allows the museum to build parking lots, pedestrian walkways and a reflecting pool. In addition, the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma will build its monument to tribal law enforcement within the easement. All improvements are subject to removal if the Corps is required to perform bank repairs to maintain navigation on the river, the museum said.
The museum's architects, Little Rock's Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and Cambridge Seven Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, will resume work on the first phase of the architectural drawings, the museum said. The architectural design work is expected to take at least nine months.
The riverfront tract is subject to a bank rectification and channel improvement easement acquired under a federal Declaration of Taking in the 1960's when the navigation system was built, the release said. This easement was not recorded in county real estate records and was discovered by museum engineers in early 2014.
Since then, the museum has worked with the Corps’ regulatory and real estate division on a plan to allow construction on the site. The Westphal family completed the land transfer in September 2015.