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$3 million-plus project in downtown Fort Smith moves forward

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Nearly a year after it was first announced, work has begun on the Garrison Pointe West development, which will convert six Garrison Avenue buildings into a mixed-use commercial and luxury apartment building.

According to Project Manager David McGuire of Griffin Construction, the $3 million development should hold its grand opening no later than Nov. 3, meaning construction will take about seven months.

When the project was announced April 25, 2013, developer Rick Griffin said the project would be a "complete historic renovation, both interior and exterior, of the six buildings" located in the 400 block of Garrison. The result of the complete rehabilitation of the six buildings will be five storefronts and 12 luxury apartments.

Even though the project has just now gotten underway, McGuire said his team is already preparing for what will be a daunting task of turning five different buildings into one while maintaining both the building's structural integrity and historic charm.

"One of the challenges to this project is these buildings were all built at different times, so we're taking and creating a hallway all throughout this building (for the apartments), which is a challenge to say the least. What we're going to do is I'll blow out all these openings and then we can set laser(s) up to shoot down," he said. "To make this building structurally sound, we'll find (any) low points and then we'll come in with three-inch angle iron on both sides with seven-inch lag bolts that's epoxied into this masonry so they can never give. On top of that, I'll do a two-by-six and then we'll have a structural floor joist that will go on top of that."

He said the resulting building will be very different from what stands empty across from La Huerta restaurant on Garrison Avenue.

"Once we do that, the building will be pretty much a new structure. The building can never do this anymore (show weaknesses) because it's anchored to the masonry and then it's going to be bolted to those new trusses. We'll do that layer, then I'll send my team upstairs and they'll get the ceiling joyced and everything. And then by that time, we'll have underground utilities done down here and they'll come down here and do that and we'll just keep that ball rolling, hopefully like that."

McGuire said his construction team also will remove much of the mortar in place and replace it, similar to the process when Griffin Construction renovated Adelaide Hall.

Also similar to what Griffin did previously at Adelaide, McGuire said his team would rip out the concrete from the commercial spaces on the ground floor and leave a gravel floor along with the exposed brick walls on either side of the space.

"So my instructions are ... where there's concrete, remove the concrete and put gravel back down, get the utilities underground for the apartments out back, and then leave these…brick (walls) exposed (with) nothing but gravel on the sub-base. That way, when a potential tenant wants to lease it, then they'll pay us to renovate that space for them. Then by leaving the concrete out, we can run those underground utilities where we're still keeping the ambiance of the existing brick…and make it whatever they want."

All five commercial units are on the ground floor, facing Garrison Avenue and will range in space from 1,000-square-feet to 1,300-square-feet.

The apartments will be divided among one and two-bedroom apartments, with four units behind the commercial units on the ground floor and eight units on the second floor. Rent, Griffin said last year, would be in the range of $800 per month, "give or take a little."

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Space that could be used for an additional commercial and apartment unit each will instead of used as a courtyard for residents and will be available for rent.

The project is funded by private funding and state and federal tax credits, according to Griffin, who said at the time, "Economically, we've got to have it for the project."

In addition to the Griffin project, other construction permits issued in Fort Smith last week include a new $2.34 million Mercy Clinic at the intersection of Waldron and Free Ferry Roads, as well as a new Mill Creek Wastewater Pump Station, a $13.3 million project located at 210 Navy Road.

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