Stories and Releases

In a season of economic challenges, one Arkansas community has seized control of its own destiny.

“We strongly believe that job creation happens on Main Street,” said retired Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt.  “When our Main Street moved towards decline, we knew that we needed to take action.”

Hammerschmidt and 15 other Harrison, AR residents, business leaders, long term-residents, Convention and Visitor Bureau and Chamber officials and city and county leaders formed a grass roots organization called CORE.  C.O.R.E. is an acronym that stands for the Central Organization for the Revitalization and Enhancement of downtown Harrison.

“It probably couldn’t have happened without John Paul,” says Jack Moyer, who managed the renovation of Harrison’s 1929 Hotel Seville.  “It took the community patriarch to get us together for that first meeting.  Once he got us around the table, we realized that we shared similar goals for our community.  Things began to happen pretty fast when we made that connection.”

Since 2008, Harrison has nurtured public-private partnerships to develop North Arkansas College’s Durand Conference Center, extend the city’s infrastructure tax and expand the North Arkansas Regional Medical Center.  At the same time, issue such as the wet/dry issue and racial diversity have been challenged and addressed and private investors have also carried the ball by renovating and re-opening the First National Bank of Berryville building and the Hotel Seville, and opening new businesses in the central business district including several restaurants and nearly a dozen new retailers.

CORE-sponsored downtown improvements have encouraged a change in the community’s attitude.   Community involvement increased through a series of meetings, surveys and a charrette process.

CORE committees have been active.  They have

  • defined Harrison as an Ozark Mountain Gateway to the Buffalo River Region
  • branded the downtown Core District as The Lake Harrison Marketplace, including local history, destination shopping, events and entertainment, Lake Harrison and the Durand Convention Center.
  • supported development of the Historic Harrison Business Association, a not-for-profit corporation
  • partnered with the city on a transportation enhancement grant
  • encouraged the city to hire a city gardener and grant writer
  • communicated the benefits of the re-design of the downtown district traffic flow
  • developed an historic walking tour and plaque program
  • supported additional tree planting in the district
  • supported expansion of the trail system, development of the skate park
  • supported positioning Harrison as Arkansas’ premier motorcycle destination
  • created a SCORE chapter and held training sessions for prospective business and investors

C.O.R.E. has also been busy creating a road map for future community development.  The strategic plan will be presented on October 14th at 1:00 P.M. in the North Arkansas Medical Center.   C.O.R.E. will present the results of its research from the past two years which grew from community input with the help of the University of Arkansas’ Breakthrough Solutions program.  The presentation of the plan will be followed by a roundtable discussion facilitated by Dan Burden, Executive Director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute located in Port Townsend, WA.   CORE will remain active, advocating measures that will make the plan a reality.

A sampling of upcoming recommendations to be announced within the plan includes:

  • The Historic Harrison Business Association will become a Main Street program and hire a director
  • The Harrison Housing Authority will explore enhancement and development of housing in the Core District, including an upscale development overlooking Lake Harrison.
  • Grant writers will focus on transportation enhancements, beautification and economic development programs
  • The community will continue to improve race relations and put the community’s stereotype to rest
  • The Lyric Theater will expand its programs for arts, entertainment and education
  • City, county , state, federal and business partners will develop a Buffalo River Education Center
  • The  CVB will relocate its office, and include a visitor center to tell the stories and commemorate the people and events that shaped  the history of Harrison, Boone County and the region
  • CORE will encourage entrepreneurship by developing a business incubator
  • Business and government will cooperate to attract travelers and make them comfortable on arrival
  • CORE will implement a new employer / major business recruitment plan for the business district

The community will participate in annual review and update of the strategic plan.

Harrison mayor Jeff Crockett complimented CORE on its progressive focus.  “From its beginning, C.O.R.E. worked to re-enforce the concept that a strong central core is in the best interest of the city as a whole,” said Crockett.  “This concept allowed for greater cooperation and participation, as everyone had a stake in its success.”   At no time has Harrison’s downtown leaders, CVB, Chamber and City offices worked so closely.

“CORE provides a community-based organization where positive ideas can be vetted by the community, be improved, gain consensus and be forwarded to the implementing party with support behind the recommendation,” said CORE facilitator Layne Ragsdale.  “We will continue that role for the foreseeable future.”

C.O.R.E. District Revitalization – Charrette II Out-brief PPT presentation (file size = 27.8MB)

C.O.R.E. continues its work to improve our community

Aldermen vote their support for CORE

Friday, April 23, 2010 12:00 am

CORE Meeting

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 8:22 am

CORE celebrates downtown successes

Thursday, February 18, 2010 12:00 am

CORE defines district boundaries downtown

Friday, January 22, 2010 6:00 pm

C.O.R.E. Accomplishments through September 2010

C.O.R.E. District Cleanup 10-18-2010

C.O.R.E. to Present Results of Community Visioning on August 23rd

Creating Great Places Road Trip