Owners of the Phoenix Expo center are pushing a $1 million Phase II project that they say will create a “first class” banquet and exhibition facility and could potentially help lure a new 100-plus room hotel.
In January 2009, FSM Redevelopment Partners LLC purchased the 35-acre former Phoenix Village Mall — bounded by Phoenix Avenue on the south, Towson Avenue on the east and Wheeler Avenue on the west. The once poorly-maintained site contained more than 10 acres of structures and was the first enclosed mall constructed in Arkansas.
In January 2010 FSM Redevelopment shifted its plan from using more than 115,000-square foot of former retail space as warehouse space to developing it into a “premiere” meeting and event space — the Phoenix Expo — that will attract everything from business meetings and banquets to antique shows and gun shows.
“We’re having discussions now, but it’s not a done deal yet,” Beaty said of the possible hotel development. “But it would be a great asset.”
According to plans presented by Beaty, the expo center will include a grand entrance, wireless access, breakout rooms, three separate full kitchens, large bathrooms and 80,000-square-feet of expanse that can be configured into seven different spaces. The space can handle about 2,200 people in a ballroom format. It will have the most space of an expo or trade center in the area, but it’s ceilings aren’t as high as the Fort Smith Convention Center.
FSM Redevelopment recently hired Mark Rogne, former food and beverage manager at Fianna Hills Country Club for the past 15 years, to be the general manager and executive chef of Phoenix Expo.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to step in at the ground level of the Phoenix Expo and develop the facility exactly like I want it,” Rogne said in a statement. “Once construction is complete in June of this year we can easily seat and serve up to 2,200 people in a banquet style format or as few as 12 people working for a working business lunch.”
Beaty and Rogne said the center has already booked events out to 2015, and they are already booking events for the busy Christmas season.
Beaty also said they are in the process of designing another segment of the overall $4 million-plus renovation of the center that is expected to have an indoor “farmers market” theme. Beaty’s vision is to transform the former bland interior of the mall into a “Phoenix Main Street” setting for up to 175 local vendors selling everything from craft items to produce to car parts. The 80,000-square-feet is immediately north of and attached to the expo space. The mall floor will be “crowned” and marked to look like a real street with faux sidewalks, side walls painted to look like building fronts and a sky scene painted on the ceiling. Beaty hopes to open the space before the Christmas holiday season.