Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan delivered his annual state of the city address before the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
Jordan spoke to the accomplishments of 2018 and where they put the city today, and looked toward what’s to come for Fayetteville.
“This city is forever looking toward the future, never content with where it is, but rather, where it is going to be,” said Jordan. But, he said, “We must always take just a moment to celebrate our successes and thank the community who makes those happen.”
He read a list of thank-yous and reminded the audience of the city’s many awards and recognitions from last year.
For the third year in a row Fayetteville was named one of the top five Best Places to Live by U.S. News and World Report, the Arbor Day Foundation designated Fayetteville as a “Tree City USA Community,” for the 23rd consecutive year, and People for Bikes named Fayetteville as the “Best Place for Bikes” in Arkansas.
He said the Fayetteville Public Library received several awards, all while preparing for an expansion project that will add 82,500 square feet of space by fall 2020. He also mentioned the city’s bike share program, an increase in ridership through transit partners Arkansas Razorback Transit and Ozark Regional Transit, and a recent agreement to develop, construct, and operate Arkansas’s largest solar power system with onsite utility-scale storage at the city’s wastewater treatment facilities.
He called the solar power system “one of the single most strategic decisions ever made” in Fayetteville. The project will move the city toward its steep goal of operating all city facilities completely on renewable clean energy by 2030. The system is expected to be completed this fall, and should raise the rate of clean energy consumption by city facilities to 72 percent.
“While we continue to make strides, we must not rest in the safe zone,” said Jordan, who added that expanding the city’s progressive vision to other areas is vital.
Specific initiatives, he said, include the city’s Digital Inclusion Plan that aims to ensure every resident has affordable access to high-speed internet to participate in education, healthcare, jobs training, and local and national policy discussions.
He said continued efforts of the city’s economic development plan initiatives will build upon recent successes like the $30 million expansions of both the Pinnacle Foods manufacturing and cold-storage facility and Tyson’s Mexican Original plant, the filming of HBO’s True Detective Season 3, and acquisition of Millsap Mountain for a future trail system that’s expected to host national-level mountain biking events.
In 2019, Fayetteville will welcome the Arkansas Coding Academy, which Jordan said is an affordable alternative-education program that offers fast-paced workforce development solutions for the information technology sector. He said the organization “has a track record of helping populations with barriers obtain gainful employment earning well above a living wage after just three short months of full-time training.”
With the city’s population expected to increase by 50,000 by 2040, Jordan said Fayetteville has a lot of preparation to do. He said the 2020 Census results will directly impact the funding Fayetteville will receive over the next decade and encouraged everyone to stand up and be counted.
Jordan said the city’s comprehensive development plan (City Plan 2030) is being updated to City Plan 2040 to include an infill development scoring matrix, a growth concept map that identifies key growth areas, and a map with new layers of data to aid development decisions.
He said part of that growth preparation is already underway as work continues on Old Wire Road, Highway 112 and Rupple Road. He mentioned the upcoming Old Wire Cycle Track, Niokaska Creek Trail, and several miles of water line and drainage improvements, sewer rehabilitation, pavement overlay and sidewalk work that will continue in 2019.
Other projects include a stormwater study, the 71B Corridor Plan, a master plan for the city’s recycling and trash collection efforts, and a 10-year master plan for parks and recreation.
Jordan said he’s most excited about the proposed 2019 bond initiative, which will send voters to the polls on April 9 for a special election that would renew the city’s 1-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2006.
The 2006 bond program paid for a variety of projects, including the 71B flyover bridge, the widening of Garland Avenue, an extension of Van Asche Drive, and a series of improvements to North College Avenue.
The 2019 bond issue would generate about $226 million to be used for road, drainage, trail and park improvements; economic development; construction of a cultural arts corridor with potential new parking facilities; a new police headquarters; new fire stations; various city facilities improvements; and refinancing outstanding sales tax bonds.
He listed several road projects the initiative would help fund, including completion of the last missing segment of North Rupple Road, as well as improvements to Zion Road, Porter Road, Deane Street, and Sycamore Street, North Street and the Highway 71B corridor. Intersection improvements would include 15th Street and Razorback Road and Millsap Road at College Avenue.
Trail improvements would include completion of the Tsa La Gi Trail, connections to Centennial Park via Shiloh Trail, and an extension of St. Paul Trail to a proposed paddle park at Pump Station Road across the West Fork of the White River, and connecting with neighborhoods east of the river.
The new police facility will include three buildings – one for the main department, one for training with vehicle and evidence storage, and an indoor pistol and rifle firing range.
The bond also includes construction of a cultural arts corridor that’s expected to stimulate economic development in the entertainment district near Dickson Street. Jordan said it will create a community hub for large and small performances and festivals, and called it “a catalyst” for additional shopping and eating in the downtown area.
“This city is and always will be on the cutting edge, pushing the envelope, leading the pack, and making what other places would call impossible our very own version of possible,” said Jordan. “This city never rests and will always be moving down the road of progress to the place we will finally reside which is called the future.”