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More construction due for Oak Street in downtown Conway

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

these-concrete-posts-called-bollards-were-installed-in-rogers-plaza-in-downtown-conway-the-bollards-outline-a-driveway-that-gives-access-to-businesses-in-a-building-owned-by-dennis-fulmer-said-jack-bell-chief-of-staff-to-mayor-tab-townsell

These concrete posts, called bollards, were installed in Rogers Plaza in downtown Conway. The bollards outline a driveway that gives access to businesses in a building owned by Dennis Fulmer, said Jack Bell, chief of staff to Mayor Tab Townsell.

CONWAY — Oak Street in Conway is about to be under construction again.

Ronnie Hall, city engineer, said the street will be widened to five lanes from in front of Walgreens to Harkrider Street.

“We’ve got four lanes widening to five in front of the [Conway Area] Chamber, into the chamber driveway. That widening will continue on to Harkrider after the Christmas season,” Hall said.

“Right now, there are two eastbound lanes, a left turn and one westbound lane, up to Rogers Plaza Park. Then it becomes two westbound, with a right turn only onto Van Ronkle,” he said.

“Ultimately, it will be two eastbound, two westbound and a left turn lane,” he said.

“We are scooting some of the parking spaces along Oak Street [in front of] of Walgreens toward the Walgreens store. We are reducing the size of their parking lot, and we are paying them for the land. … The deal has not been consummated with Walgreens.

“They don’t seem to be resisting it,” Hall said.

“The person I am communicating with by email is chief counsel for Walgreens in Illinois or Indiana. They have no authority here to do anything. Walgreens doesn’t even own the property, but they must sign off on any encumbrance of the property,” Hall said.

He said a limited partnership in Idaho owns the property.

Rogers Plaza was built in front of the chamber, and a building that once housed Earl Rogers Co., a National Automotive Parts Association store, was torn down, and the property was donated to the city by the family.

The plaza includes a fountain, which is now covered by a 54-foot artificial Christmas tree. The tree has proved to be controversial because of its cost — about $130,000 for the tree and training to install it. The tree was paid for with advertising and promotion funds, which cannot be used for street improvements, for example, said Jack Bell, chief of staff for Mayor Tab Townsell.

The tree’s lights have been spotty, but Bell said the bottom section of lights was rewired Tuesday and should be working.

Also, a new feature to the plaza are bollards, short vertical concrete posts. Bell said they are to delineate a driveway through the plaza.

“Once the Christmas season is over, there will be a driveway to access the parking lot that is just north of there. Mr. [Dennis] Fulmer owns that white building, and he needs access,” Bell said. “He was on Van Ronkle, and now there’s no Van Ronkle.”

Van Ronkle Street was closed in front of the chamber, and a dedicated right-hand-turn lane was created at the traffic light on Court Street to get onto Van Ronkle.

Bell said the bollards can be removed.

“If we have a gathering and are expecting a big crowd, we’ll block off ends of the driveway and take them out and make a bigger space,” he said.

An arch to the east entrance of downtown was completed just weeks ago.

“The road was designed for five lanes, and the arch was positioned to span that,” Hall said.

The expansion will include a “bulb-out from the south edge of the arch,” he said. “We’re going to redo the south side of Oak Street, and it will have the same planters and decorative lights that will match the ones on the north side,” he said.

“It will be an improvement once it’s done.”

He again emphasized that the work would be done “after the Christmas holiday.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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