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[LeAnn Dilbeck - Pulse] Levy talked with Mena Street's newest retailer, Lori Bonner at The Elle Boutique, during his tour.

ARCO Holds Charrette to Promote Community Involvement

Downtown Revitalization Project to Receive Rendering

BY LEANN DILBECK –

Dr. Mark Peterson returned to Mena recently to continue to unveil the possibilities available through the University of Arkansas Breakthrough Solutions program being facilitated through the Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas (ARCO). To date, there has been much discussion, information, and data but the program is beginning to move into the next phase, “visual,” and ARCO Chair Gar Eisele believes that is the stage that will excite people the most.

“Most people are visual in nature and I believe when Mr. Levy provides us with the renderings [of downtown], it will only continue to fuel the progress we are making when we can share the goal, visually, with our community,” said Eisele.

Peterson brought with him for this meeting architect Ed Levy.  The initial meeting began in the historic armory on DeQueen Street to participate in a “charrette.”  This discipline is used in many urban planning projects where all segments of the community are allowed to participate, identify assets, opportunities, and challenges and then compile to develop an overall strategy to reach a common goal.  Multiple sessions of charrettes are required to complete the lengthy process.

Attending the first charrette in Mena included members of city and county government, retailers, hospitality, and education.

Levy and Peterson emphasized for Mena to achieve its goal of downtown revitalization, it was important for everyone interested to be involved in the process.  “Everyone needs to speak up if we are to be successful,” said Levy.

Those in attendance were each given opportunities to identify components of other downtowns that they deemed successful that what they credited to its success.

Sharing some general concepts and examples of renderings prepared for other Arkansas communities, Levy and Peterson outlined some of the major factors both in architecture and in philosophy that have proven successful.  Those included water features, landscaping, farmers markets, walk-ability, music, food, just to name a few.

Eisele shared the success of “Let’s Paint Stuttgart” campaign. The town was unable to attract any federal or local tax support so they began thinking “out of the box.” The main expense in painting is the labor and they were fortunate to have many skilled volunteers. Local paint stores provided the paint at a greatly reduced cost and an interior designer volunteered her expertise and assisted with color selections.  The results have been astounding according to Eisele who said one restaurant owner was moved to tears when he shared the impact the painting of his facility had had on his business volume.

Following this section of the meeting, the group proceeded to tour Levy and Peterson through downtown Mena.

An additional three-day charrette will be held beginning Tuesday, October 23, at the historic armory.  The session will go from noon until 2 p.m., with a light lunch available at 11:30 a.m.  The architectural team will work through Thursday, and the public is invited to hear a progress report on Thursday, October 25, at 5 p.m. at the same location.  Eisele hopes business owners and residents alike will participate.

Eventually, not in the October meeting, the finished project will be a conceptual master plan and rendering that will, in ARCO’s hopes, be the catalyst to launch a downtown revitalization.

For more information about the upcoming session, contact Gar Eisele, ARCO Chair, at 479-394-4332, or Carla Vaught in the Polk County Extension Office at 479-234-1122.