First Thursday looks to expand footprint in 2011

Photo: Todd Gill / Enlarge
Pending City Council approval, First Thursday will soon include the block of Mountain Street between East Avenue and Block Avenue.

Update: This ordinance was approved on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.


When First Thursday Fayetteville is back in full swing this spring, it could include twice as much street space as before.

The Fayetteville City Council on Tuesday heard from city officials who say the monthly outdoor art walk has reached its capacity and is ready to expand.

If approved, the ordinance on next week’s regular meeting agenda will amend city code to allow First Thursday to control the block of Mountain Street between East Avenue and Block Avenue as well as the parking spaces on both sides of the street.

Any closure of Mountain Street wouldn’t begin until at least May, however, due to a scheduling conflict with the Fayetteville Town Center.

During this week’s council agenda session, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said his original concern was that the businesses around the square were alright with closing off another street’s worth of parking spaces between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

“We have agreements with the Town Center deck to be open during every First Thursday as well as the lot to the east the East Square Plaza building and the lots behind Block Street,” Visitors Bureau manager Brian Bailey told the council.

Bailey, who oversees the event, also said he’d recently shared input with the mayor that suggested a majority of business owners were indeed in favor of expanding the footprint of First Thursday and that some had even reported record sales during the evenings of past events.

“They seem to be fine with it and I think it is a great idea,” said Jordan.

First Thursday first began as a grass roots effort to establish an art walk in downtown Fayetteville. Monthly art openings at Fayetteville Underground and the now-closed ddp gallery quickly gained popularity and by August 2009, the event had grown to include outdoor live music and a movie on the square.

In March 2010, the City Council voted unanimously to authorize the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau to manage First Thursday after city staff cited a need for an entity to be given control of the event in order for it to continue to be successful.

Shortly afterwards, East Avenue was closed to vehicle traffic during First Thursday to include street art openings and a beer garden.

If all goes as planned, the 2011 First Thursday season, which begins April 7, could include an expanded beer garden, a children’s area, and a performance stage on East Avenue.