CBID approves Jimmy John’s variance request, discusses splash pad

story by Ryan Saylor

The Fort Smith Central Improvement District approved a variance at a special meeting Tuesday (Sept. 2) that would allow a new Jimmy John's sandwich shop under construction at 822 Garrison Avenue to incorporate construction elements that differ from downtown guidelines.

At issue for the CBID were plans to use tinted windows on the structure even though downtown guidelines state that tinted windows are not allowed.

Original plans for 822 Garrison called for tinted windows on the ground floor occupied by Jimmy John's, as well as tinted windows for loft apartments above the gourmet sandwich shop.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman, the city's liaison to the CBID, explained the purpose of the window ordinance to the commissioners.

"Really, where the guidelines get into tinting windows is in the storefronts. That's where it mostly addresses the tinting of windows because in the old day, the display windows were not tinted so you could see in and see the goods from outside," he explained.

CBID Chairman Richard Griffin, who has his own mixed use development under construction in the 400 block of Garrison Avenue, voiced opposition to the tinted windows proposed for 822 Garrison.

"Just to remind you of what our challenges are — we have a variance process and it seems to work and buildings end up looking pretty darn good," he said.

The CBID eventually voted to allow the variance for upper floors of the building to use a "moderately" tinted window while specifically prohibiting the use of tinted windows on the ground floor.

The commission also voted to deny a variance that would have allowed the sandwich chain to have a distinctive red strip running along the top of its sandwich shop, in an area between an apartment on the second floor and the restaurant on the first floor. A motion passed by the commission said the strip must be black in color.

Ghan said he would take the design to his clients and could bring back additional variance requests at the commission's next regular meeting on Sept. 16, though he said it would not slow construction.

He added that the restaurant could be open for business in about three months barring any delays. Ghan said total costs for the renovation of 822 Garrison were not yet known as unexpected expenses have occurred in the structure likely constructed between 1910 and 1915. Considering the overruns, he expects the total cost for the project could run $600,000 or more.

Included in the project is office space, as well was two loft apartments. Ghan said Jimmy John's has signed a lease on the office and one of the loft apartments. The 1,400 square foot apartment rents for $975 per month, leaving an additional 1,275 square foot apartment available for lease at $950 per month.

In other business, Dingman informed the CBID that a contract had still not been signed for the splash pad at Compass Park on the went end of downtown.

The project is more than $12,000 over budget, Dingman said, a bit lower than the $50,000 over budget it had been earlier this year. The park's original construction budget was $300,000.

It is possible that a masonry bench could be removed from the design of the park in order to meeting budget estimates, Dingman told the commission.

"But the recommendation from this group was to try to keep all this stuff," he added.

Griffin suggested that the commission could try to use money originally intended for railroad relocation to cover the overrun since the city and Union Pacific were unable to come to terms for relocation of a rail maintenance yard located behind Miss Laura's Visitors Center.


Asked when Compass Park could open, assuming money is found or cuts are made to the design, Dingman said there was no timetable.

It was also noted that no applications had been received for a vacant commission position vacated by the resignation of former CBID Commission Bennie Westphal.

"I'm speaking of tradition, but normally this group will make a recommendation and that hasn't been done yet. It's not a completed process," Griffin said.

Dingman said public notice had been made regarding the vacancy and the city board of directors and the CBID had been made aware of the vacancy should either group have recommendations on a possible replacement for Westphal.

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Oh, the good, "business friendly" town of Fort Smith where the color above an entry and window shade is regulated by a panel of power hungry people who will never miss an opportunity to regulate something or someone.

The main thing the CBID should do

is help downtown businesses survive IMO. Not tinting those windows and considering Daylight Savings Time wouldn't that put customers trying to eat a sandwich by the window pretty much in the glare of the sun? Perhaps they will be allowed shades. Can't see in can you? No trademark red strip but they can have black. Is this really necessary?

Name The CBID Members

Can Someone name the present CBID members who are responsible for the "rules" of business development downtown. It could be that some of the "rules" for a new business start downtown actually may be hurting growth and maybe all of these special "rules" should be listed on The City Wire to let the people know what may be holding up development downtown. Interesting story if one reads behind the lines.

Thank You Mr. Smith

You are right on where to find the member list of the CBID and now its easy to understand why it is the way that it is!

Reasonable Consideration

It seems reasonable that an eating establishment would want to protect their customers from the hot sun and also reduce their cost of cooling their place of business. Why have this road block on the requirements for approval because it kind of reminds of the bush planting requirements that prevented the car storage facility from getting started.

only if they are eating breakfast

would they have any possible sun glare.

At noon the sun is at 11:00 in the summer

plus what if someone has an hour early lunch? Matter of fact I've had some killer breakfast sandwiches in other towns so yes that also can be done. Considering the situation, the CBID is very lucky to have Jimmie Johns and The Bricktown Brewery moving in downtown, not the other way around, so let's not get overly Ft Smithish this early in the deal. Tourists are not going to freak at tinted windows and a red row of tiles instead of black so why are they worrying about it at all?

Lets Start Calling Them

The CBRD or The Central Business Restriction District because we all remember the shouting event when a new business owner wanted to open a female specialty shop on Garrison Avenue. Something appears to be out of order here and new business must jump thru the hoops to get started. Do we have a problem where the good ole boys are in control?

go look

the building is on the South side of the avenue, the front facing North. At 11 the sun is on the East side f the building - the side with no glass on the ground floor.

Is the building right on the equator or is it north of it?

You are quite correct however in that the sun does seem to rise in the East and set in the West but at around 35.3686 degrees N how could the sun not appear to be moving from East to West somewhat in front of the building?

What is wrong

What is wrong with this town? We're bleeding jobs, college graduates are leaving for better options and the town is stuck in the middle ages and all the city can think about it how to restrict the look and feel of a business interested in being part of the community.

Could It Be

that a certain well connected developer is buying up downtown property for pennies on the dollar using tax credits and tax grants while using his crony friends to restrict other development by other people who would invest in the city? What else could it be?

I took a little trip

absolutely determined to give the benefit of the doubt. Totally clear glass was actually kind of a rare thing to see. Darkened to varying degrees or reflecting glass was pretty much the norm all through the CBID's area including newly remodeled buildings by members. Windows with less tint tended to have shades pulled so you can't see inside them anyway. Go look.

You Are Sooo Right Gen4

I'd bank on the fact that this thing is a whole lot darker than tinted windows. You know the old saying that you can pull the shades over some of the people eyes-----some of the time.