Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan delivered his annual state of the city address before the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
“For the past 8 years, I have happily reported to you that the state of our city is sound,” Jordan said. “This year, I want to go a step further and let you know that due to the city of Fayetteville’s economic prosperity, smart growth, ability to continue new infrastructure projects, and the increasing diversity of our people and workforce, the state of our city is strong, stronger than it has ever been before.”
Jordan spent a few minutes reflecting on the city’s accomplishments in 2016, including the extension of Van Asche Drive, renovation of the Walton Arts Center, completion of the the first phase of the regional park, restoration of the historic bridges on Maple and Lafayette streets, and the extension of Rupple Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The addition of a new rescue engine fire company in April led to a 3.2 percent improvement in response times, and increases in police staffing improved police response call times, which are now down 7.6 percent.
“There is nothing more important for our city’s future stability and our abilities to keep our freedoms and enjoy our diverse culture than the work we do to keep our people out of harm’s way,” Jordan said.
Jordan outlined five main priorities for 2017, including implementation of the Fayetteville First economic development plan, paying down the debt, infrastructure planning, engaging in a lean government review, and improving operations and technologies.
Through contracts with Startup Junkie and the Chamber of Commerce, Jordan said focus areas include enhancing the arts and cultural environment by encouraging public art and the development of a cultural arts district.
Another focus of the plan is to support, retain and attract business, and to improve the perception of doing business in Fayetteville.
Jordan’s plan to become the “Startup City of the South” includes the creation of a recruitment website, an innovation council, the launch of a free, public co-working space on the downtown square, and forming a millennial advisory panel to recommend policies and practices that will attract young workers and business owners.
Continued exploration of affordable housing, support for public transit, creation of a downtown business alliance, and researching the possibility of a hotel and conference center are also on the mayor’s list of goals in the coming years.
Jordan said he plans to pay off the city’s current sales tax bonds before bringing a new major capital improvement package to voters in late 2019. That package, he said, will support strategies laid out in the upcoming Fayetteville Mobility Plan, which will outline long-term, multimodal mobility within the city.
Near-term goals include continued extension of Rupple Road north to Howard Nickell Road, with new signals at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Persimmon Street and Mount Comfort Road.
Projects to start within the year include an extension of Vantage Drive to Sain Street to provide an alternative route to the Joyce Boulevard and College Avenue intersection; widening of Old Wire Road from Mission Boulevard to Stanton Avenue; design of a roundabout to replace the 4-way stop at 15th Street and Razorback Road; improvements to Hwy 112 from Poplar Street to Van Asche Drive; widening and signalization at Razorback Road and Maple Street; and sidewalk enhancements and rezonings to support form-based re-development on College Avenue between Maple and North streets.
Trail improvements set to be completed in 2017 include the leg of Clabber Creek Trail east from Rupple Road to Holcomb Elementary School (will eventually connect to the Razorback Greenway); Cato Springs Trail south from Town Branch Trail to the regional park; and several protected on-street bicycle connections.
Adding broadband connectivity to city-owned facilities and public parks as well as providing more wi-fi hot spots around town are both part of the mayor’s plan to enhance the city’s digital infrastructure.
Continued support for diversity and equal rights will come through several new goals this year, including establishment of the Welcoming Fayetteville Plan to ensure that intentional efforts are made to further the city’s support of its diverse community.
Jordan said he asked all departments that are involved in planning, development and building permitting to “peel back the covers” and take a look at their processes and procedures from a customers’ point of view. Plans to improve relations with the development community include creating a manual on small-lot, single-family home design, as well as a flowchart detailing the development process and a zoning brochure to enhance understanding of the various zoning districts.
“My vision for this city is to remain a top tier city across the country, a city that has a vibrant business economy that welcomes millennials, next generation workers, immigrants and new Americans and provides an environment where existing citizens and newcomers can thrive,” Jordan said.
He said Fayetteville will continue to reject policies that treat segments of the community differently.
“We are all part owners together in this city regardless of the color of our skin, the religion we practice or who we love,” Jordan said. “With the great confidence voters displayed for me and this administration in the last election comes an equal responsibility and humility to uphold the principles of our community. I believe our commitment to these principles is validated and shared and I will do everything in my power to maintain them.”