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Downtown Streetscape Project Nears Completion

BY MELANIE BUCK –

Lampposts on the Maple and Janssen block of Mena Street were aglow for the first time last Friday, August 12, and their installment puts the city just one step closer to completing a 13-year streetscape project. Besides the aesthetic appeal, the lampposts will be very energy efficient.  Colorful banners remain to be hung on the lampposts along with new benches and trash receptacles being placed on the sidewalks to complete the $1,376,125 project. The current portion is $533,784.

The project saw the replacement of old, cracked, and sometimes hazardous sidewalks to modern and decorative sidewalks, added lampposts and banners, new benches, and more to create the ambience of a quiet, southern, and old fashioned town sure to draw attention from locals and travelers, alike.

Not only do they create a nice atmosphere, the lampposts are also cost efficient.

The city installed LED lighting in the posts and they are projected to only cost $1.81 per year per bulb. In comparison, the old bulbs each cost around $60 per year. There are a total of 55 fixtures now lining Mena Street and Mayor George McKee said the lamps will pay for themselves in two to three months.

McKee explained that the project began several years ago, but was halted after the April 9, 2009 tornado due to funding being used for major repairs instead of the cosmetic project. “It took FEMA several years to reimburse us but when they did, we started working on it again,” said McKee.

He added, “I’m glad that it’s over and it looks really nice. It’s another step forward for Mena. Any town or city has to move forward; if you don’t you’re falling back. We’ve come a long ways and we’ll keep doing it. I’m glad we’ve kept the small town attitude and atmosphere, which is good.”

The beautification of Mena is a vision that many adhere to. Rick Chrisman, owner of American Artisans on Mena Street, spoke at a council meeting last year on behalf of several business owners and organizations from the downtown area regarding their efforts to draw tourism to the region. Chrisman explained that the business owners have been inspired by a revitalization study that ARCO (Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas) conducted. “The creative organizations and businesses downtown have been working hard to create events to draw tourism to downtown to improve the area,” said Chrisman. “It’s important to us to see this improve down here.”

John Vacca, of ARCO, commended the commitment of the elected city leaders of Mena who have deemed the importance to beautify and continue to improve Mena Street with sidewalks and lampposts. Vacca reiterated the importance of Mena Street, which serves as the gateway to the Talimena National Scenic Byway and holds the potential to attract tens of thousands of tourists, making it an important economic engine in the community.

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