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Agency actions boost project

by Eplunus Colvin | July 22, 2021 at 2:52 a.m.
The Urban Renewal Agency during Tuesday’s meeting approved the purchase of several dilapidated buildings on Main Street between Third and Fourth avenues. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

In March, the Urban Renewal Agency approved a resolution to begin eminent domain proceedings on several dilapidated downtown buildings on Main Street.

In May the Urban Renewal Agency entered into a contractual agreement on four downtown properties while filing a complaint in Jefferson County Circuit Court against five other properties on Main Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

During Tuesday's Urban Renewal Agency meeting, Executive Director Maurice Taggart said he had received a response from the property owners, and he presented a signed offer and acceptance letter to the board along with a resolution authorizing the purchase.

The buildings on the contract are 300 S. Main St., 302 S. Main St., 304 S. Main St., 306 S. Main St., and 310-314 S. Main St.

"If you recalled we filed eminent domain action in respect to those buildings," said Taggart, who added that he would have the eminent domain action dismissed. "Since that time negotiations have been resumed and we've come to an agreement."

The resolution states that the property owners have offered to convey a fee simple marketable title at a price not to exceed $160,000.

Taggart said if the agreement is approved by the agency, he would dismiss the eminent-domain action. The request to purchase the properties was approved.

The acquisition of those properties puts the agency closer to its redevelopment plan of owning every building on the west side of Main Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

"We'll have that entire block on the west side of Third and Fourth," said Taggart, who pointed out that the agency owns about 40% of the east side. "We'll own every building except for about four on Main Street."

Taggart said of the remaining buildings, there are two in particular that are in a dilapidated state that the agency should consider.

While plans for the newly acquired buildings are uncertain, Taggart said he has received interest in the newly renovated buildings at 316, 322 and 324 Main St.

Chairman Jimmy Dill complimented the work to the buildings done so far. Taggart credited newly promoted Chandra Griffin for the curb appeal the buildings have added to Main Street.

"Mrs. Griffin has started to clean that area up," said Taggart. "Mostly all of those vines are gone and cleaned off. She helped to do 316, 322 and 324. People are always asking who picked those colors. She did."

Griffin said that about 70% of the cleanup is done and she is in the process of having the sidewalks sprayed so the grass doesn't grow back and into the streets. So far she has had the vines and grass removed from the back of those buildings.

Dill asked if the city could maintain the alleys.

"If we're going to fix these up and do everything, to me, it's not too much to ask if they take on that project to help keep those clean," he said. "If we do get some businesses down there, we want people to feel free to walk off Main Street and walk down that alley. We're getting there."

Dill said he has recognized how the buildings are being used in photos and videos.

"A lot of people have been looking at it bragging about it and have been using it as backgrounds for these glamour shots," said Dill. "It really looks good. It's really showing what we can do and what we're trying to do downtown."

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