Arkadelphia: Things Looking Up In Downtown Rebirth (Main Street Preservation | Winner 5,000-20,000)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 12:00 am  

On March 1, 1997, a tornado ripped through Arkadelphia, killing six people, injuring more than 100 others and destroying the downtown.

As Arkadelphia’s residents restored their lives, they vowed to rebuild.

“Although the struggle to bring the downtown area back from the brink has been long and tedious, buildings have since been repaired or rebuilt and the sense of community pride is still strong,” said Brooke Gregory, community program coordinator for Southern Bancorp Partners, the nonprofit division of Southern Bancorp of Arkadelphia.

As a result of the accomplishments preserving the downtown area, Arkadelphia has been recognized as one of Arkansas Business’ Cities of Distinction in the Main Street Preservation category.

“Volunteers, city management, government officials and local business leaders have taken the initiative to bring positive change to downtown,” Gregory said.

One of the key initiatives includes city officials’ decision to lease the 1932 Royal Theatre building to the Clark County Arts & Humanities Council, which opened the Arkadelphia Arts Center in October 2011.

The center has been an essential part of the downtown revitalization, Gregory said. It is restoring the Royal Theatre, as well as providing an art gallery, performance center and arts teaching center for the community.

The center also received a grant for more than $25,000 to create a downtown art mural, in which residents are involved in the planning, design and painting. That project has drawn a number of people to downtown, Gregory said.

Southern Bancorp Community Partners also has created the Downtown Façade Improvement Grant Program, which is a matching grant where qualifying businesses can receive up to $3,000 to improve their storefront facades.

So far, 25 businesses have taken part in the program, resulting in more than $130,000 in improvements for awnings, paint, and signs, Gregory said.

Residents also are getting involved. Leadership Clark County, a nine-month course for people who are committed to the area, decided to focus on the downtown as one of its class projects.

Earlier this year, the class quizzed a number of leaders and business owners about the direction of the downtown.



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