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Renewal agency OKs redevelopment deals

by Eplunus Colvin | November 18, 2021 at 2:57 a.m.
The Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency’s board moved ahead with several projects this week. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

 

The Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency approved several contracts that will move redevelopment in its areas to the next phase.

LEVEL5 Architecture will begin the engineering and structural restorations of 10 downtown buildings on Main Street between Third and Fourth avenues that the URA acquired earlier this year.

Justin Gilmore, with LEVEL5 Architecture, said his team would look at all the buildings and determine which ones are structurally sound and which ones can be restored. At that time, they will measure all the buildings to determine the cost per square foot. Gilmore said that once they get to the point of determining the historical relevancy and conducting a needs analysis, the board can decide which buildings will be the priority.

URA Chairman Jimmy Dill said his primary concern was making sure some of those buildings did not collapse, as has happened with other downtown buildings.

LEVEL5 Architecture also was approved to render design and engineering services for the Electric Go-Kart Track at 2100 Harding Ave.

"This is a jumpstart of moving forward with this project," said URA Interim Executive Director Chandra Griffin. "I'm glad to say a lot of things that we're doing now, we are starting to get into the building part."

WER will analyze the price per square foot for buildout proposals by local investors interested in the restored downtown buildings.

According to Griffin, Oscar Bullard Jr., whose proposal for an eating establishment was accepted by the board to occupy 316 Main St., recalled his proposal. A backup proposal from Vanessa Jackson, who is looking to turn that space into a jazz and comedy club, was accepted.

Chef Jamie McAfee's proposal still stands for 322 Main St., as he plans to bring a brunch-style restaurant to that location.

The non-profit Corvette Brothers of Pine Bluff were in attendance to request potential ownership of the property at 311 W. Second Ave., owned by Urban Renewal.

The Corvette Brothers, focused on community leadership, are in search of land to build their headquarters where they can better host the community in youth mentoring programs, scholarship giveaways and local events.

Their plan was to install a customizable prefabricated steel building.

Dill said he felt the timing of the request wasn't right, since there is already a downtown redevelopment plan in place.

"Nothing against the organization -- but you're taking a chunk of property in an area that we are fluidly trying to develop, and I just think it sets the wrong precedent number one," he said. "Number two, it may be that the property is something that we need for one of the projects, but we don't know that."

"This is part of a jigsaw puzzle downtown, and we don't have the pieces turned right side up yet," added URA member Kirby Mouser. "That's my concern. It has nothing to do with the value of the group or the need for the group in Pine Bluff."

The Corvette Brothers said they are open to other available properties, and the agency indicated it may help them in that regard.

Go Forward Pine Bluff CEO Ryan Watley said the location was originally a part of the redevelopment plan for a downtown movie theater.

He added that the communication with Felix Waller, owner of Apex Cinemas, has been inconsistent, suggesting the downtown parcel be left alone as a backup just in case Waller doesn't come through as promised.

Waller, who expressed excitement about the prospect of transforming the old Walmart building at The Pines mall into a state-of-the-art movie theater and family entertainment facility last December, could not be reached. The website for Apex Cinema says the company has three theaters in Oklahoma, one in New Mexico and one in Texas.

"We may have to come back downtown," said Watley.

LEVEL5 Architecture will begin engineering and structural restorations on several downtown buildings. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)
LEVEL5 Architecture will begin engineering and structural restorations on several downtown buildings. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

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