Downtown Van Buren is getting a food truck court.
Local businessman Jim Petty is developing the food court on Main Street at its intersection with Ninth and Webster streets on a site which formerly housed Sharon’s Dog Grooming at 900 Main St. and a two-story house at Ninth and Webster.
The house was taken down Wednesday morning. The dog grooming building site was cleaned up earlier in the week.
“The food truck court will add additional eating options and drive more traffic to downtown to continue the momentum that we have downtown,” Petty said.
He said the more traffic that can be driven to downtown will be good for all vendors, including the restaurants on Main Street.
“We want people to intentionally think about eating downtown,” Petty said.
The food court will be known as Phillips Landing.
After Arkansas became a territory in 1819 Daniel and Thomas Phillips constructed a lumber yard in the community to serve as a fuel depot for traffic along the Arkansas River. It became known as Phillips Landing.
Petty said the idea to name the food truck court Phillips Landing was suggested by Cathi Payton, who along with her husband Phil, will own and operate the Pasta Grill. The former Cottage Cafe building currently is being remodeled by Petty to house the Pasta Grill, which is scheduled to open this fall.
Payton said she is excited about the food truck court.
“The more restaurants and food choices we have downtown, the more visitors to downtown we will have,” Payton said. “That is the reason restaurants flock to the same area like Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith. It is not a competition … it is a benefit.”
The food truck court will offer pads for five to six vendors with electricity, water and sewer, Petty said.
“The idea is to have a well-designed, thoughtful layout with the food truck vendors’ needs in mind,” he said. “We have talked to food truck vendors to see what they need to be successful at a location.”
Petty said discussions with possible vendors is underway.
“We plan to be selective with the food trucks so we don’t have multiple trucks with the same type food,” he said. “We hope to have an ice cream or sno-cone truck across the street from the splash pad in the newly opened Freedom Park.”
Petty said he has had discussions with several vendors but is not far enough along to make any annoucements.
“The idea is to continue to dress-up downtown to make it an attractive destination for not only visitors, but Van Buren residents,” he said.
Van Buren Original, a non-profit organization, was formed in 2015 “to unify and champion for a vibrant downtown.” The Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission partnered with VBO by appropriating $30,000 to fund a strategic improvement plan by MAHG Architecture of what downtown has to offer local residents as well as tourists and what it needs to prosper.
Since then, the City of Van Buren has partnered with VBO, advertising and promotion commission and The Old Town Merchants Association to improve the historic downtown area.
In 2016, Living Local was launched. The initiative is designed to invite more people to partake in the businesses on Main Street in downtown Van Buren. Featuring festival-style events, Living Local from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays includes shopping, entertainment, food and music.
In July, the Van Buren City Council voted to enter into a contract with Crawford Construction at a cost not to exceed $667,700 for Veterans Memorial Plaza, phase II of the downtown Veterans Park.
Veterans Memorial Plaza is the city’s original Veterans Park and is located across Main Street from Freedom Park, which was dedicated and opened to the public on June 30.
Freedom Park, adjacent to the train depot, serves as an entertainment and recreational venue. The park consists of two pavilions to be utilized by the local Farmers Market, and for other groups and activities, an open green-space area with a stage, an interactive fountain feature, and benches and picnic tables.
Veterans Memorial Plaza will be designated as a space of reflection. It will include a flag plaza honoring all branches of the military as well as a flag and seal for first-responders. A Battle Cross monument donated to the city by Chase Haynes, an Eagle Scout with Troop 45 in Van Buren, will be in the center of a Memorial Plaza water feature.