Fort Smith is perhaps best known for being the setting of True Grit, the serialized 1968 novel that was adapted into two feature films. In fact, Fort Smith has reentered the popular imagination with film adaptation starring Jeff Bridges. True to the story, Fort Smith was historically a major depot for western law enforcement. In fact, a national United States Marshals museum is currently under development in the town. Perhaps due to this lingering reputation, Fort Smith is a city with a low overall crime rate--nearly free of bandits, scoundrels and outlaws!
History aside, Fort Smith is a friendly and affordable town located right on the Oklahoma border in the heart of the Ozarks. Remnants of the city's significance in western expansion exist in the historical downtown district, which still resembles a small depot straight out of Western movies. The area is incredibly inexpensive and has a pretty diverse population, with a number of Hispanic and Asian residents.
Your Ozark Weather Forecast
Well, new Fort Smith resident, you'll be glad to know that most of your winters will be quite mild, with little snowfall and relatively brief periods of low temperatures. You'll pay for the winter pleasantries, however, with hot, humid summers and, of course, all the excitement of residing right in the middle of Tornado Alley. Stock up your storm cellar, Dorothy, and prepare for some epic twisters.
In 2006, Forbes ranked Fort Smith as the US city with the lowest cost of living. This will become quite apparent as you begin your apartment search. If you are relocating to Fort Smith from any other large or medium sized city, you'll think someone is playing a joke on you. The monthly rental rates around town will make even the most stoic of new residents squeal with delight. So regardless of your income, you should be able to find affordable housing in a nice, well-maintained neighborhood.
South and East
Any Fort Smith resident will tell you that the southern and eastern portions of the city are where you're going to want to begin your apartment search. Southern and eastern neighborhoods means anywhere in Fort Smith proper south of Rogers Avenue and east of Interstate 540. Lucky for you, much of Fort Smith's development has sprawled southward, so there's a lot available here. Two bedrooms in the southern and eastern portions of Fort Smith generally go for $400-600.
To the far south lies Fiana Hills, which is a more newly developed neighborhood that is as close to upscale as you're going to get in Fort Smith. Nearby to the Fiana Hills Shopping Center and replete with newer, suburban-type development, you'll be able to find nicer, more suburban living in this portion of town. Rents here are some of the most expensive in town, ranging from $600-800, which, all things considered, ain't all that bad.
North and West
It's not that the north and west portions of Fort Smith are necessarily bad. Overall, the city has a relatively low crime rate and areas of nice housing in most of its neighborhoods. It's just that there are more instances of run-down housing in these portions of town, and block by block, the north and west areas of Fort Smith are more mixed in safety and decent housing. If, for some reason, you are dead set on living here, the best areas to look are around the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith campus, which has a lot of affordable apartments and is located close to Central Mall. You should be able to find a two bedroom in this area for $500-600.
Avoid the areas closest to the Oklahoma border, as these are generally considered to be the least desirable in town.
Okay, so if rents in the southern and eastern portions of Fort Smith are a little too high for you, and you're not having an success in the less desirable portions of town, look to the far north! Just five miles from downtown Fort Smith, across the Arkansas River, lies Van Buren, an adorable, historic town that is overall quite safe and incredibly affordable. Two bedrooms in this area generally go for $450-650. However, be advised that Van Buren is located in the dry county of Crawford, so you'll have to cross back over the river into Fort Smith to toss back a couple.
Getting Around Town
You are definitely going to need a car in Fort Smith. Though the city has a fairly condensed metropolitan area, most of the shopping and commercial centers are located farther out in the suburbs. Rush hour in the city is relatively calm, with slight delays going into downtown, particularly from Van Buren to the north, but nothing bad enough to make you want to be fire off your six-shooters.
Fort Smith Transit adorably operates four bus line around town that will get you downtown if you live pretty close to a main street. FST also provides on-demand ride assistance for people with mobility problems.
So welcome to town, partner! Enjoy the low cost of living and your new friendly neighbors!
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