A University of Arkansas - Fort Smith student class project set out to come up with suggestions for improving the atmospheric qualities of downtown Van Buren.

The research objectives of students of Dr. Elise Riker suggested, among other things, increased visual appeal, new businesses and building a friendly environment.

A report by Landon Phillips, Hannah Price, Sarah Beth McClellan, Alexa Torres and Marie Valente noted that Van Buren Original, and other community members, are taking the necessary steps to revitalize downtown.

Research focused on what current visitors think of the physical and atmospheric qualities of downtown with the belief that findings can be used to develop solutions that will increase quality of place for the historic area of Van Buren.

Students, who are part of the Business College’s Marketing Research class taught by Riker, assistant professor of marketing, made presentations to the public at the King Opera House on Nov. 28 and Nov. 30.

The UAFS student survey found most visitors come to downtown to sight-see and enjoy the environment. Others are drawn by festivals and unique shopping experiences.

Suggestions included cleaner sidewalks and streets, stable retail environment and more visual signage for stores.

Boutiques, special foods, exhibits, and music would be a draw, the study revealed.

Surveys conducted by the students revealed that visitors like the atmosphere, but felt downtown was not being completely utilized.

Visitors said the addition of lights underneath awnings would entice them to walk in downtown during the night.

When asked about improvements needed at Blanche Moore Memorial Park, most stated they did not know where the park was. The majority also felt the most visitors gathered at the top of Main Street not in the area of the King Opera House on the lower end of the street.

Most visitors said downtown needs more family-friendly activities and an environment that is pet friendly.