City Leads the Way in Lake Village's Main Street Rebirth (Main Street Preservation | Winner, Fewer than 5,000)
Posted 12/9/2013 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
Lake Village Mayor JoAnne Bush looks down Main Street these days and sees growth, and even more importantly, the promise for more. But she remembers a time not long ago when her small city’s primary business corridor was drying up.
Like those of many towns across the country, the recession took its toll on downtown Lake Village. But the resurgence of Main Street in this Chicot County seat started with the city’s renovation of the historic Tushek Building and grew to encompass the entire Main Street corridor.
Lake Village’s commitment to revitalizing downtown and the example it set with the Tushek Building earned the city a 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction Award for Main Street Preservation in cities of fewer than 5,000 people.
The Tushek Building sat unoccupied on the corner of Main and Chicot streets in downtown Lake Village for years. Bush said the top floor was unoccupied for 20-plus years and the ground floor for more than 10. When she contacted the owners about the building several years ago, Bush said they thought she was going to tell them the roughly 80,000-SF building was being condemned. But Bush asked them to give the building to the city, which they did. Bush wanted to consolidate all city departments into a single building downtown.
Previously spread out over several locations, city administration now calls the Tushek Building home. It serves as the new Lake Village City Hall, a one-stop shop for city services. The building is LEED-certified, one of just a few historic properties to achieve that status and the first in the Delta, and only local workers were used in the renovation.
It took Bush years of searching for the right grants to renovate the building. About $1.7 million in federal grants later, new life was restored into a building that was constructed in 1907 and sits on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to the improved functionality afforded by the renovation of the building, Main Street was awakened. Bush called on Little Rock architect Aaron Ruby to lead the renovation of the Tushek Building because she admired his work with the historic Lakeport Plantation just outside of town.
“Restoration of a well known city landmark in the heart of downtown is an act in restoring community image and thereby civic pride,” Ruby said. “Where empty storefronts dominated before, today they are full and indirectly encouraging nearby property owners to improve their own storefronts and reinvest in the neighborhood. Lake Village’s Main Street has a like-new appearance and more pedestrian-friendly walking areas as a direct result.”
Bush hoped that moving City Hall into a renovated Tushek Building would spur economic development on Main Street, and it did. The Paul Michael Co., an international furniture and home décor manufacturer founded in Lake Village, moved its corporate headquarters from outside of town on U.S. Highway 65 to Main Street.
Ruby said long-term benefits to the Main Street rebirth include increased tourism (Lake Village sits on the shores of North America’s largest oxbow lake, Lake Chicot), potential population growth, and of course, potential business growth.
“By investing in the downtown area, the project encourages closer living to the city center, benefiting minority and elderly populations in the region,” Ruby said. “Growth is expected to continue for years to come.”
Ruby noted how the city chose to renovate an existing building rather than build anew and how 100 percent of existing structural elements were reused for the project. Plus, just 5 percent of waste generated by the project made it to a landfill. In fact, the building is so green that its second-floor insulation is made of recycled denim jeans. A nice little twist, given that cotton is such a big part of the Lake Village economy.
Ruby said other cities in Arkansas can use Lake Village as a model.
“This project is the first of its kind in the Delta, but other cities can adapt this project to suit their own needs by using materials that reflect their economy, encouraging participation from residents and by incorporating the city’s history into the project,” he said.
The last five years or so have seen true transformation in downtown Lake Village, and sometimes Bush can’t believe her eyes.
“It truly looks 200 times better than before,” she said.