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story.lead_photo.caption A group of officials — (from left) Jimmy Alessi, chief executive officer of Alessi Keyes Construction; North Little Rock council member Debi Ross; Bob Butler, president of Alessi Keyes Construction; and Nathan Hamilton with North Little Rock’s communications department — look at plans for the Argenta Plaza complex in downtown North Little Rock on Friday morning.

Having 4 miles of underground water pipe in place, a frame already up for a 40-foot-tall video screen and the first few hundred of about 50,000 pavers being laid by hand, construction of North Little Rock's Argenta Plaza has moved along at a steady pace, according to construction managers.

The $5.36 million city-owned plaza, 510 Main St., will feature jetted fountains, a 20-foot-high, 50-foot-long cascading water wall and a "front porch" setting facing Main Street among its 42,000 square feet of space.

Jimmy Alessi, chairman and chief executive officer for general contractor/construction manager Alessi Keyes Construction of North Little Rock; Bob Butler, the company's president; and project architect James Meyer with Taggart Architects of North Little Rock gave the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and City Council member Debi Ross a tour of the plaza Friday morning.

"I'd say we're 45 [percent] to 50 percent done," Butler said, even with "4 feet of rain on the job site since starting," he said. Groundbreaking was in mid-August with construction begun in September.

"It's been a smooth process," Meyer said. "There's good teamwork."

Three underground vaults contain the miles of pipe for the fountains and other water features. Delta Fountains of Florida was the design consultant and selected manufacturer while Illinois company Laughing Waters Inc. installed the pipe system.

The pipe work has probably been the most complicated undertaking, Butler said. The plaza itself has been a new kind of construction project for Alessi Keyes, Alessi and Butler agreed.

"So much that you see now was done underground," Butler said, letting visitors peer into one of the 10-foot-deep vaults that house controls for the waterworks. Above ground, he said, "Everything had to be laid out first.

"It's a unique project," he said.

Meyer said that "every piece we work on is complicated. I think Alessi Keyes has done a good job with the construction."

To build on the once-vacant lot, Butler said that 3,500 cubic yards of unsuitable soils had to be undercut and removed and replaced with 5,000 tons of industrial sand that took more than 250 truckloads hauled onto the site.

The concrete pavers are another tedious task. Much like laying floor tile in a kitchen, the 6-inch-by-12-inch pavers have to be lined up and set by hand for the proper fit and the right aesthetic for the new public gathering place in downtown Argenta.

The pavers are in four shades of gray for contrast. The pavers have already been placed over what was a sidewalk along Main Street between Fifth and Sixth.

"It'll take 3½ to four months to put in the pavers," Butler said.

Meyer said workers are laying 500-600 per day to get all 51,616 pavers into place.

The jetted fountain area, laid within three recessed concrete areas designed to resemble oxbow lakes, will have more than 100 jets to shoot LED-lighted streams of water into the air. The concrete has a slight bowl shape to allow the water to quickly drain once the fountains are turned off, so people can stand or sit on them to visit or watch the video screen or a show on the stage in front of the big screen.

"The whole intent is once we shut off the fountains, in a few minutes all will be dry and usable," Meyer said.

Above the screen's frame are three boxes for specialty lighting to shine onto the plaza. Each will display a different color, one red, one blue and one green.

"If you're standing in the plaza," Meyer said, "you'll actually cast three shadows and each should cast a different color shadow."

Another unique aspect of the plaza project is that it's sharing space with three other major construction projects.

The 5½-story First Orion office building is under construction directly behind, or east of, the plaza site. A three-story Power and Ice building on the plaza's north side is planned, but not yet under construction while waiting on the confirmation of a restaurant tenant.

Adjacent to that building will be the three-story 600 Main building that will house the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association and Taggart Architects, all as co-owners.

The other contractors for those projects are: Vratsinas Construction Co. for the First Orion building; Nabholz Construction for 600 Main Building; and East-Harding Construction for the Power and Ice building.

Taggart Architects, and Meyer, is involved with each of the projects.

"It's unusual to have this many contractors working on projects next to each other," said Meyer, who added that he's on-site several times a day. All contractors meet every week to share plan schedules and work together, he said.

"It's all an open book," Meyer said.

Because of the close proximity of the First Orion construction, the plaza work will take a three-month break when near completion, Meyer said, to allow First Orion to be finished. The plaza is scheduled to open to the public before Thanksgiving, city spokesman Nathan Hamilton said Friday.

Metro on 03/16/2019

Print Headline: Argenta Plaza taking shape in downtown North Little Rock

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