Last of four gate­way projects near com­ple­tion

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Tia Lyons Staff Writer

Af­ter five years, the last of the city’s four gate­way mon­u­ments is ex­pected to be erected soon along U.S. 167 south.

Mayor Frank Hash said a spot has been se­cured on the south­east side of town to in­stall the mon­u­ment, one of the fi­nal pieces of a three­p­ronged project that was ap­proved in 2012.

Hash told mem­bers of the El Do­rado Works Board that work has be­gun on the site, which sits atop a small bluff at the end of Lorene, just north of U.S. 82.

Robert Ed­monds, di­rec­tor of pub­lic works, pre­vi­ously said the city was con­sid­er­ing the Lorene site af­ter at­tempts had fallen through to se­cure other pos­si­ble lo­ca­tions for U.S. 167 south.

The mon­u­ments were part of a pack­age of projects that was pre­sented in 2012 to the for­mer El Do­rado Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Board, which ad­min­is­tered the for­mer one-cent, El Do­rado For­ward eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment tax

A task force de­vel­oped a pro­posal to help im­prove the city’s gate­ways, and the group pre­sented a fund­ing re­quest to the EEDB.

The EEDB and the El Do­rado City Coun­cil agreed to a max­i­mum

bud­get of $945,000 for four gate­way mon­u­ments and re­lated im­ple­ments — util­i­ties, ir­ri­ga­tion land­scap­ing, etc. —, wayfind­ing signs and two digital mar­quees for the El Do­rado Con­fer­ence Cen­ter and the El Do­rado Mu­nic­i­pal Au­di­to­rium.

The mar­quees were in­stalled in 2013, and the wayfind­ing signs ar­rived a short time later.

How­ever, the ini­tial roll­out of the wayfind­ing signs was not well re­ceived, with the city re­ceiv­ing com­plaints about gar­ish, neon col­ors.

The city and gate­way task force went back to the draw­ing board, col­lected the few signs that had been placed in Down­town El Do­rado and de­cided to tone down the col­ors.

Hash said lo­cal graphic de­sign busi­ness Ar­tat­tack! is work­ing on the re­design, which also in­cludes new let­ter­ing.

Some of the newly re­freshed way find­ing signs have been posted at city parks.

The rest will go up as the new Murphy Arts District gets up and run­ning, city of­fi­cials have said. The grand open­ing of the arts and en­ter­tain­ment district is set for Sept. 27 — Oct. 1.

The city is con­tin­u­ing to work with El Do­rado Fes­ti­vals and Events, Inc., who is spear­head­ing the $100 mil­lion MAD project, to place the wayfind­ing signs.

“We want to be able to get folks to that venue,” Hash said, re­fer­ring to MAD.

Mem­bers of the gate­way task force pre­vi­ously ex­plained that the wayfind­ing signs and the gate­way mon­u­ments are in­tended to work in tan­dem, with an “out­side-in” ap­proach.

The pur­pose of the mon­u­ments is to wel­come vis­i­tors into town and the wayfind­ing signs are meant to guide drivers and pedes­tri­ans to at­trac­tions, pub­lic places and other points of in­ter­est around the city.

Three of the brick gate­way mon­u­ments have been in­stalled at the Arkansas 7 spur near El Do­rado Chem­i­cal Com­pany; on U.S. 82/ Mag­no­lia High­way near Wrights Lane; and just past Mis­sile Mart on U.S. 167 north to­ward Calion.

The city has run into a few hur­dles along U.S. 167 south, Hash told mem­bers of the El Do­rado Works Board.

“That’s been the holdup for the fourth one. We’ve had huge dif­fi­culty find­ing a spot,” Hash told mem­bers of the El Do­rado Works Board.

In one in­stance, a prop­erty owner backed out of an agree­ment to use pri­vate prop­erty just south of the U.S. 167/U.S. 83 ex­change.

For an­other pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion near the Arkansas Wel­come Cen­ter, the Arkansas High­ways and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment did not sign off on the city’s re­quest.

Hash said plans are com­ing to­gether for the site at the end of Lorene.

“It works out bet­ter than the spots we looked at be­fore. It’ll be sit­ting up high at the top of that bluff, and it’ll be vis­i­ble from 167 and 82,” Hash said.

City of­fi­cials have said costs for the trio of projects have come un­der cost pro­jec­tions so far, with $37,330 re­main­ing in the $945,000 bud­get.

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