Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency looks at tasks in year ahead

Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency Director Chandra Griffin speaks to visitors during a tour of ongoing projects across the city Dec. 15. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

The Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency announced its 2023 agency operating plan earlier this month. Submitted by executive director Chandra Griffin, she stated several commitments were delivered in 2022 and noted the first of the year was stalled because of approval delays of the 2022 budget.

“City council approved budgets in late January of 2022 and PBURA hit the ground running,” said Griffin.

Accomplishments for 2022 included: Proposed downtown housing at Walnut Street to Pine Street, Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue completion of survey, appraisal, Phase I and Phase II environmental studies, geotech and architect work by way of requests for quotes. This project is ready to move forward with a potential developer.

Plan of action in place for downtown stabilization between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue of Main Street. Level5 Architecture presented findings and estimated cost for stabilizing buildings. Prioritizing the buildings that need immediate attention has been completed and Level5 has applied for Historic Preservation Grants.

Taggart Architects secured for Sixth Avenue and Main Street Plaza and 22-26 units housing on Sixth Avenue.

Properties purchased for the Sixth Avenue and Main Street Plaza and Sixth Avenue housing.

Accepted donated land from Simmons Bank and Georgia Street Storage for Sixth Avenue and Main Street Plaza and Sixth Avenue housing.

Executed professional service agreement with The Generator to recruit businesses in the form of buyers and tenants for the Urban Renewal-owned properties.

Construction Management contract executed for Sixth Avenue and Main Street Plaza with Nabholz Construction.

Designer of Go Kart Track was awarded to Level5 Architecture.

Urban Renewal razed 2100 E. Harding St. for the new Go Kart Track.

Construction Management contract executed for Go Kart Track with East Harding Construction.

Partnership with Go Forward Pine Bluff and other entities for the Neighborhood Enhancement Act (NEA) was approved by the board.

Executed the design agreement with Faye Jones School of Architecture for the NEA housing.

Board hired a executive director as of March 2022.

Urban Renewal board approved job descriptions to meet the current duties of the UR team members.

Razed 45 properties.

Purchased Mack Vision Truck for Urban Renewal equipment.

Initiated “Green Sweep” partnership with other city departments to engage with residents.

Partnership established with Street Department and the city’s Public Work Committee for “Free Dump Day.” Providing a roadmap going into 2023, Griffin said demolition efforts would begin in February. “The RFP respondent awarded for the asbestos consultant was Petroleum and Automation Consultants Inc.,” said Griffin. “PBURA looks forward to working with PAAC. PBURA has a goal to raze 50 properties for 2023.” Renewal projects will begin construction in the first quarter and continue until completion, according to Griffin. She said the additional time has been used to reevaluate the continuing rise in construction costs and questionable weather.

“Final construction documents from Level5 Architecture are expected by the first of March,” said Griffin concerning the Go Kart Track. “Once received, East Harding Construction will post for bids with a focus on local contractors. The Go Kart Track will feature party rooms, an arcade, a restaurant, outside seating and the main attraction: a thrilling Go Kart Track.” Taggart Architects and Nabholz Construction will finalize the bid documents by mid-February with a focus on local contractors for the Sixth Avenue and Main Street Plaza project. The Plaza will feature a food hall, mini shops, seating and entertainment areas. “This plaza will focus on start-ups for retail, food and specialty service businesses,” said Griffin. “The concept concentrates on the need for small business owners to move from a home-based business to a brick-and-mortar business with the knowledge of running a successful, and sustainable business.” Faye Jones School of Architecture will also finalize construction documents and move forward with the necessary permits to begin construction on single-family homes. Griffin said rising construction cost is a concern and the final design and materials used have been re-evaluated.

The site location for the first house is at the corner of 33rd Avenue and Plum Street in the NEA area. For multi-family homes, a draft development agreement has been made and is nearing completion.

“This multi-family complex will consist of 22 to 26 units at 6th and Georgia to 6th and Convention Center Dr.,” said Griffin. “The Urban Renewal Agency realizes the need for housing in Pine Bluff, especially the central and downtown area. This housing will spark the growth needed to impact Pine Bluff in an upward direction.” A beautification project known as “Green Sweep” spearheaded by the agency in 2022 will continue into 2023.

“Every Wednesday city departments focus on a neighborhood and pass out information door to door,” said Griffin. “This information would consist of city department contact information, common code violation and how to address them and “Free Dump Day” information.” Griffin says Green Sweep and Free Dump Day will continue in 2023 with additional community service events planned.