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story.lead_photo.caption Mayflower Police Chief Robert Alcon, left, and Mayor Randy Holland hold architectural drawings of the new $1.5 million Mayflower City Center municipal building as they stand inside it. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday for the facility, No. 5 Ashmore Drive. The building, paid for almost entirely with grants, includes the police department, courtroom/community room, mayor’s office and economic-development room. ( Staci Vandagriff)

— The $1.5 million Mayflower City Center municipal building that will officially open this week is a testament to the fact that Mayflower is recovering after two back-to-back disasters, Mayor Randy Holland said.

The project is the first phase of the “Heart of Mayflower” economic-development plan, the mayor said. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the building, No. 5 Ashmore Drive.

The city of 2,234 was hit hard when the Exxon Mobil Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured in March 2013 in the Northwoods subdivision. The rupture spilled more than 100,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into a drainage ditch and a cove of Lake Conway on the opposite side of Interstate 40 from the main body of water. Then a deadly tornado tore through Mayflower on April 27, 2014,

killing four people in the city and destroying 54 homes.

City officials started talking about rebuilding, and residents wore T-shirts with the phrase “Mayflower Rising.”

“We wanted to get the heart of Mayflower put back in,” Holland said. “If we’ve got the heart of Mayflower, we can start expanding out.”

The new 6,825-square-foot facility includes the Mayflower Police Department; a courtroom that will serve as a community room and City Council meeting space; the mayor’s office; and a room devoted to economic development.

The Mayflower City Center municipal building was paid for almost entirely with grants. The city received $500,000 from Exxon Mobil as part of a settlement the company paid to the state, and $1.1 million from the Economic Development Agency, administered through the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District.

Dale Carter, finance director for the city of Mayflower, said the city went back to the drawing board to make the project affordable after original bids came in too high. Carter said some of the $500,000 grant was used to pay for the design work on the building.

Architect Randy Palculit of Jackson Browne Palculit Architects of Little Rock said “part of getting this built was the city taking on a lot of work on its own … the sitework,” he said.

The city bought the .84-acre site in 2012 for $55,000.

Carter said Mayflower spent approximately $63,000 for ground work, including $41,162 for gravel and $18,390 for fill. Once the city employees started digging, they ran into a problem, however.

“What we found out right in the middle of that was there had been a pond, and [a previous landowner had] filled it in with old tree stumps,” Carter said. “We had to go down 6 or 8 feet to get down to solid ground, something you could build a building on. It cost us a good bit more.”

Carter also said $11,000 for a soils engineer was paid for from a special community-center fund.

Barbara Mathes, assistant to the mayor, said the city’s costs came from its general fund. Carter said the Faulkner County road department also provided gravel, in addition to what the city purchased.

Also, Centennial Bank donated $10,000 to the project, said Eric King, senior vice president of the bank.

“We just love being part of the community, so whether it be through school donations or being part of helping cities and municipalities or even counties, we don’t mind jumping in,” he said.

Mathes said the money was used to purchase furnishings for the facility.

Mayflower School District Superintendent John Gray, a member of the mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on economic development, said the building will be an asset for the city and school.

The room devoted to economic development in the building will provide a central location for developers or new business owners to meet with city officials. The maps will include details of real estate in Mayflower, including the current zonings, what can be built on the property and more.

“It’s a neat, friendly place for new businesses to come and get organized,” Gray said. “We want to make it bureaucratically friendly for new businesses coming in. We’ve got several looking at us right now,” he said, adding that a Harps grocery store is under construction in the city. The standalone store on Arkansas 365 is south of the current Harps that leases space in a shopping center.

Gray is also secretary of the Mayflower Chamber of Commerce, which doesn’t have a president at the moment.

“The chamber is focusing very much on economic development,” he said. “The other thing I’m excited about, they’ve got that big meeting room there, so the school can have a meeting with staff, or the public can meet there [with school officials],” he said.

The municipal building is adjacent to the Mayflower School District’s administration office and has an elementary school to the south and the Mayflower Senior Citizens Center to the north. Those neighbors will eventually be connected to the site through accessible pedestrian paths, according to the plan. Palculit said the site will connect to a Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter at the elementary school.

Holland said the former city hall includes the water department, which will expand into the space the mayor’s office is vacating. The Mayflower Police Department, which sits adjacent to City Hall, is in a portable building that was formerly a bank and was moved to city property.

The City Center is part of a recovery plan called Jump Start Mayflower, developed by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center in Fayetteville and unveiled in 2015. The plan was developed by holding town-hall meetings with residents and using research conducted by a disaster-recovery manager employed by the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District, which contracted with the design center to conduct the project.

The “downtown triangle” of the proposed town center begins at Arkansas 89 and 365 and goes north to Stroud’s Diner.

Although Holland first envisioned an area similar to The Village at Hendrix, a walkable neighborhood with shops and businesses, the plans are being tweaked, he said.

“We have to work with the 365 corridor, which we’re trying to rezone right now,” Holland said. “We’re doing a land-use plan, seeing how we’ll blend mixed use with affordable housing and also retail.”

Mathes said Arkansas 365 has different zonings, and “we may go back to more … commercial, C-1, which is like when we first started in 1999 in zoning.”

Palculit said Phase 2 of the Mayflower City Center, estimated to cost $200,000 to $300,000, will include an amphitheater and an educational component described as “a living laboratory.”

“It will start when the city secures the funding,” he said.

According to the architectural firm’s website, the design includes a detention pond featuring plant life typically found around the Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir. The title given to the pond is the Water Wise Living Laboratory, and it will have an observation deck on one side and a sidewalk and drive on the north side, paved with grass pavers. The sidewalk will be lined with lighted bollards that are also designed to be a power source for events such as a farmers market. Additionally, Phase 2 includes a large canopy that is designed to collect rainwater into a cistern that would then drain to the Water Wise Living Laboratory. The canopy would also act as a band shell.

Another feature that is in the works for the project is an indoor education kiosk. This would include a touch-screen information monitor that would be tied to Web cameras positioned strategically around Lake Conway to observe wildlife.

“We are currently working on getting a proposal, and the mayor is working on a financial sponsor,” Palculit said.

He said Mayflower didn’t give up in its long journey to secure funding and make the building project a reality.

“I’m so impressed with Mayflower, how they’ve persevered,” Palculit said.

Holland said it shows the spirit of Mayflower and its residents.

“With all the disasters we’ve had, we’ve been trying to rise up, as they say, and it’s taken this long to get to this point,” Holland said. “We’re very excited that Mayflower is getting the growth we’ve been working toward.

“We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve all stuck together; the main thing is Mayflower is so strong.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-5671 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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