Talicia Richardson has acquired a wealth of knowledge crossing multiple business disciplines over the last 20 years of her career, including hospitality and health care.
She served recently as the Development Officer for the Fort Smith Housing Authority, developing strategies for neighborhood stabilization and coordinating residential, mixed-use and mixed-income development.
She played an integral part in the development of the Propelling Downtown Forward Masterplan initiative, which won the Main Street Arkansas’s Award for 2017 Best Downtown Improvement Project. It also landed the Arkansas Chapter of the American Planning Association Award for Achievement in Comprehensive Plan Development. This positioned her to take on her newest role, as executive director of the downtown association 64.6, where her prime responsibility is implementing that same downtown plan.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing downtown Fort Smith?
We are competing on a national stage and many communities are working to enhance their downtown experiences. Moving forward on quality projects with speed of execution will continue to set downtown Fort Smith apart.
What are some of the solutions?
Embracing our natural resources like the Arkansas River and unleashing its potential with 6.2 miles of trails, a world-class skate and bike park, the construction of the U.S. Marshals Museum and more to come. Only a bridge separates us from Oklahoma, so it is important to maximize our regional impact by reaching across the border and to increase collaboration with neighboring communities such as Van Buren, Alma and Greenwood.
How did The Unexpected mural campaign impact downtown and what is next for the program?
The impact continues to span across and beyond the city of Fort Smith. It is difficult to quantify the annual visits to downtown, however, in 2017 we had an estimated reach of 15 million across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, trade magazines, blogs and shares from The Unexpected page. The Unexpected program will continue to bring unexpected art to unexpected places.
What role does the 64.6 downtown organization play in business recruitment and other direct economic development activities?
Creation of a space that provides diverse amenities is crucial and 64.6 has played a major role in space activation with its inaugural event, The Unexpected. We view our role as a connector and convener of experiences that facilitate activity downtown. Other examples include the development of the first downtown pocket park with Garrison Commons and the transformation of Universal Chapel by Okuda San Miguel into Gateway Park, as drivers of the Propelling Downtown Forward Masterplan, as is upcoming renovation of the historic New Theatre.
How does your organization partner and work with the city and other community organizations?
64.6 works closely with the city on multiple projects, including the recently completed downtown masterplan. While we led the effort, the city reviewed and adopted the plan, pledging to work together in implementation.
In addition, the city worked with us in the production of the Unexpected initiative, which was particularly important when we were programming civic-owned sites. The D*Face Arrows art installation was one of our favorite collaborative projects. With multiple private partners, the Fort Smith Parks Department worked closely with us to bring this massive installation to life.
While the downtown district is the heartbeat of Fort Smith, we cannot do it alone. We work continuously with the business and arts community as well as the Chaffee Crossing Redevelopment Authority, Frontier Metropolitan Organization and Fort Smith Downtown Business Association on community presentations, grants and event support. We are one in Fort Smith.
How did 64.6 get its name?
The name 64.6 represents the square-mile footprint of Fort Smith. The 64.6 downtown organization was created to act as a catalyst for economic development in downtown by inspiring and engaging partners through art, education, place-making and other attractive amenities, as a means to accelerate development of diverse commerce.
Does the organization hold a contract for services with the city? Where does 64.6 derive its resources for the work?
We do not have a contract with the city. Fort Smith is a generous community and as a non-profit organization, we rely heavily on our strong volunteer base, grants, in-kind donations and the generosity of private donors.