Propelling Downtown Forward initiative first order of business

Talicia Richardson, a Fort Smith School Board member and former development officer for the Fort Smith Housing Authority, was recently named the new executive director of 64.6 Downtown.

She succeeds John McIntosh, the first executive director of the Fort Smith-based nonprofit organization behind The Unexpected public arts festival, Garrison Commons and the Propelling Downtown Forward initiative. McIntosh will continue to lead production and development for the nonprofit organization named for the total square miles in Fort Smith’s city limits.

Richardson’s primary responsibility will initially be implementation of the Downtown Master Plan called Propelling Downtown Forward, according to Claire Kolberg of 64.6 Downtown. The redevelopment plan was adopted into the Fort Smith Comprehensive Plan in 2017 with goals of “creating sustainable downtown growth with attainable housing, increased residential and commercial spaces, walkability, bikability and overall increased entertainment and cultural amenities,” a 64.6 Downtown news release explains.

64.6 Downtown spearheaded the Propelling Downtown Forward initiative in 2016 and contracted Gateway Planning of Dallas to create the plan with more than $250,000 in private funding. Richardson has been involved with the project since its beginning, and also served a three-year term on the Fort Smith Planning Commission.

Richardson's experience in developing the master plan, her historical knowledge, and insight are seen by 64.6 Downtown as "instrumental in application of the plan,” the news release noted. She was also chosen for the role because of her experience working in collaboration with the public and private sector in Fort Smith, most recently as Development Officer for the Fort Smith Housing Authority.

Richardson won election in 2016 as a Fort Smith School Board member At-Large. She has also been a mentor at Howard Elementary and Darby Junior High, and serves on local and state level boards, including the Western Arkansas Community Foundation and Arkansas Early Childhood Education Commission.

64.6 Downtown is a nonprofit organization founded in 2015 by Fort Smith entrepreneur Steve Clark with the purpose of "creating vibrant spaces in downtown Fort Smith to further economic development." It is responsible for Garrison Commons, downtown’s only pocket park, the award-winning short documentary “I AM WE,” and the award-winning The Unexpected, bringing urban and contemporary art to Arkansas.

The Propelling Downtown Forward initiative uses #PropelFS on social media and is directed by 64.6 Downtown to “continue the momentum of downtown economic development.” The full plan can be accessed at www.646downtown.com.