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Main Street Arkansas Newsletter

Spring 2003 - Volume 18 Number 1

Senator Blanche Lincoln Announces

Main StreetArkansas Award Winners

Senator Blanche Lincoln and Cathie Matthews, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, presented the 2002 Main StreetArkansas Awards at a banquet on December 15, 2002, at Hot Springs.

Marian Boyd, Main Street Arkansas state coordinator, announced the winners and presented a slide show documenting the winning people and projects.The banquet was held at the Arlington Hotel in conjunction with the fall meeting of the Arkansas Municipal League.

The Main Street Arkansas awards are presented bi-annually and serve to recognize outstanding individual, organizational and community achievements, which are vital to the overall success of the local Main Street programs.

Awards were presented in seventeen categories representing the four-point approach of the Main Street program.

Executive Director of the Year

Unlike the other awards, the winner in this category is chosen by his or her peers.The 2002 executive director of the year is Sandy Key of Ozark.

Sandy has been the director since 1997.During her tenure she has worked to create new zoning laws that promote upper -floor housing, she has secured a grant to light up the Ozark bridge, and she, along with her board of directors, worked tirelessly to ensure that the new U.S. post office was built in the downtown area and not out on the highway.

Best Creative Fundraising Effort

Given to the Main Street organization which was the most creative in securing funds for its downtown program, the winner was Main StreetClinton for its Chair-ity Auction.

Upon realizing that Main StreetClinton had a budget shortfall, board member Beverly Beem came up with the idea of raising money by auctioning off used chairs, decorated stools and second-hand recliners.

What most people thought was an odd idea at best, turned into a very successful fundraiser, netting over $3,100.

Best Partnership Effort

This award goes to the Main Street organization and partners that have demonstrated the highest degree of cooperation in downtown revitalization efforts.The winners were Main Street Batesville, the Grace and Ketz families, Master Gardeners of IndependenceCounty and the Batesville Area Arts Council for the Park of the Batesville Suns.

The Park of the Batesville Suns occupies the space where the Otasco store once stood.The store burned down fifteen years ago, leaving an eyesore on Main Street.The Grace and Ketz families donated the land, the Master Gardeners landscaped the space, the Batesville Arts Council created beautiful mosaics – the Batesville Suns – using stones, tile and river rocks, and Main Street Batesville marshaled the resources and volunteers to add garden-style benches and tables.

Together, these partners have created a downtown pocket park that evokes pride and pleasure in all who use it.

Benefactor of the Year

This award is given to the individual, corporation or organization that has best shown a dedication to the revitalization of their downtown through the spirit of giving.The winner was Union Planters Bank of Paragould.

Since the beginning of the program, Union Planters has been a supporter of theMain StreetParagould program.The bank provides Main StreetParagould with very visible rent-free space, as well as use of its boardroom for meetings and functions.Over the past two years the value of this in-kind donation is approximately $19,000.

BestBuilding

Rehabilitations

These awards are given to the best exterior and/or interior rehabilitation projects in a Main Street Community.

The award for Best Building Rehabilitation under $100,000 was awarded to The Melba Theatre in Batesville. The theatre, owned by Terry and Ramona Chandler, had been closed since 1996 until the Chandlers purchased it with the intent of returning it to its original condition.Today, the Melba is one of the jewels of Main Street and is an extremely popular movie theater.

The award for Best Building Rehabilitation between $100,000 and $500,000 went to White’s Jewelry and Estates in Rogers.Rick and Angie White are the owners.

Built in 1898, this two-story building underwent a complete exterior and interior rehabilitation.

The award for Best Building Rehabilitation over $500,000 was awarded to The Lyric Theatre in Harrison.The Ozark Arts Council owns the building.

The theater, which was built in 1929,closed in 1977 and remained vacant for 22 years.At one time it was scheduled for demolition in order to make way for a parking lot.It was purchased by the Ozark Arts Council in 1999.

A new roof was installed and major renovations were made to the interior of the building.The building now serves as a wonderful community gathering spot in the heart of downtown Harrison.

Best Downtown Public Improvement Project

This award is given to the Main Street organization or municipality that has designed and implemented quality physical improvements in its Main Street area.This year’s winner was Main Street Russellville for the BurrisMemorialPlaza.The plaza was built as a lasting memorial to the six residents of Russellville and the surrounding area who lost their lives in a June 1999 airline crash in Little Rock

The plaza, located at the corner of Highway 7 and Highway 64 in downtown Russellville, serves as a beautiful gateway into the heart of the community.

Best Special Event

This award recognizes excellence in a single downtown special event, festival or promotional series.This year’s winner was Main Street Osceola for the Osceola Heritage MusicFest.

Osceola Heritage MusicFest was established to promote downtown Osceola as the center of cultural activities, to preserve and pay homage to the community’s heritage and to revitalize community pride and spirit.The festival included 13 hours of non-stop entertainment, a carnival for children and several other fun events for visitors of all ages.

Best Image Promotion

This award honors the best promotional item produced by a Main Street organization.Examples of eligible nominations are newsletters, brochures, business directories, poster, logos and audio-visual materials.This year, the award went to Ron Hudnall and Resource Design for Frisco Festival in Rogers.

Ron Hudnall, owner and president of Resource Design, and Nik Sengsouriya, graphic designer, agreed to provide all promotional materials for Frisco Festival at no charge to Main StreetRogers.This included the design of t-shirts, brochures, posters, media ads event maps and much more.

Best Adaptive Reuse

This award honors the best new use of a building while retaining the building’s historic integrity.This year’s winner was Pro-Dentec, Life-Plus International and Four Seasons Travel in Batesville.

Professional Dental Technologies and Life-Plus International decided to move to downtown Batesville in the summer of 2000.They purchased a historic landmark building downtown that had previously housed a furniture store and began extensive remodeling to use the structure as a corporate office and training facility for the companies.

In addition to improving the building, the three businesses employ more than 200 people who now work downtown and patronize downtown businesses.

Merchant of the Year

This award is given to the individual who has demonstrated unique vision and determination to make his or her business stand out in the community.This year’s winner was Gary Mast, owner of the Olde Town Store in El Dorado.

The Olde Town Store is innovative and serves as a great model for other businesses in the community.Mr. Mast sells health food and the business houses a Mennonite bakery.His store fits with the eclectic mix of retail in downtown El Dorado and fills a merchandising gap in the community.

Best Business Commitment to Downtown

This award is given to the individual, family or business that has demonstrated a commitment to downtown that goes above and beyond the ordinary.This year’s winner was Dian Evans, owner of The Baker House Bed & Breakfast in North Little Rock.

Ms. Evans purchased the large Victorian home in 1998 and it serves as North Little Rock’s only bed and breakfast.Dian often opens the home to Main Street Argenta as a gathering place.Dian is a long time member of the Main Street Argenta board and currently serves on the promotion committee, volunteering countless hours to the program.

Royce Bolding

Volunteer of the Year

This award, named in memory of Royce Bolding, volunteer for Main Street Argenta, is designed to honor the individual who has contributed the most to the local Main Street program through his or her volunteer efforts.

This year we had a tie.Our first winner was Roy Garner, volunteer for Main Street Ozark.Mr. Garner has been a Main Street volunteer for over five years and served as president in 2001.

As chair of the design committee, Garner used his training and expertise as a landscape architect to assist with the removal and replacement of 43 downtown flowerbeds.He also spent countless hours tending to the downtown greenery and coordinated the installation of 20 benches in the downtown square.

Mary Cohoon, volunteer for Main Street Russellville, also won this award.Ms. Cohoon has been a volunteer since the beginning of the Main Street Russellville program in 1992.She has been appointed "Chief" of the group affectionately known as the Downtown Diggers.This group maintains the flowerbed located in front of the Pope County Courthouse.Mary personally purchases the material needed and coordinates

volunteer schedules.She is also involved with the Friends of the Depot subcommittee and has spent numerous late nights removing original brick pavers from the historic railroad station.

Judy Thacker Board Member of the Year

This award, named in memory of Judy Thacker, longtime Main Street Russellville board member, is designed to honor the individual who has contributed the most to the local Main Street program through his or her service on the local board.

This year we had a tie for this award.Our first winner was Barbara Brown of Harrison.For three years, Barbara Brown has not missed a single Main Street Harrison event.She is often the first volunteer on site and the last to leave.Her involvement with Main Street is textbook, beginning as an office volunteer, then as a committee member, moving up to chair and finally to a seat on the board of directors.Barbara’s work so impressed Main Street Harrison that they named their annual volunteer recognition award in her honor.

Charlotte Schexnayder of Dumas also won this award.Ms. Schexnayder’s contributions to Main Street Dumas are boundless.She is a founding member of Main Street Dumas and has been instrumental in raising over $46,000 for the downtown streetscape project.

Main StreetArkansas Special Recognition Award

This award is chosen by the Main Street Arkansas staff to recognize exceptionalefforts that significantly change the future of a community, while serving as a model for others to follow.This year’s winner is Main StreetClinton for its grassroots effort at keeping the county offices downtown.

The Van Buren County Quorum Court voted to purchase an abandoned Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town and there was talk of consolidating county government in the space.Recognizing the economic blow that would come from moving roughly 10% of the county’s workforce out of the city center, the citizens of Clinton responded by petitioning the first public referendum in 25 years.

The vote occurred onSeptember 11, 2001.The tragedy our country faced that day didn’t stop the citizens of Van Buren County from voting to embrace the history of their community and keep county government downtown.

Melba is Again Toast of Batesville

Theater Brings Movies and More to Downtown

By Jim Harris, Arkansas Times

Reprinted with Permission

While most of the renovation and restoration of old movie theaters has involved support of cities or their local arts councils, Terry Chandler took it upon himself to salvage Batesville’s classic MelbaTheatre.

After talking with representatives of the local arts council, Chandler decided to tackle the project himself.Chandler won’t reveal the price he paid, but he bought the theater on Main Street in March 2000 from a man who had acquired it at auction, and a year later opened the theater for second-run, family-oriented movies on weekends.

In April, the Melba was the chief site for the first Ozark Foothills Filmfest, and the highlight was a Saturday music performance by Arkansas native Levon Helm and the Cate Brothers as well as screenings of three of Helm’s movies.

“The theater had a stage that was big enough, and they brought in sound and lighting to do it,” says Bob Pest, who organized the Filmfest. “We highlighted the history of the theater with our festival, and we were trying to bring some attention to it locally and help [Chandler] drum up some business.”

But mostly, the Melba runs films, often of the Disney variety, and charges $2 for admission. Concessions are priced as cheaply as tickets, Chandler says, “so a family can afford to go to a movie again.”

Although not restored on the scale of El Dorado’s Rialto or Heber Springs’ Gem, the Melba required much work, mostly by Chandler, whose day job is in the tool-and-die division of Emerson Electric.

“It looked, smelled and sounded like a cave,” he said of his first look inside the Melba. “We had to put in a new roof, new ceiling, new floors. The only things left were the seats. We needed new drapes. It took a lot of sweat equity to get it up and running”

After seeing a successful dinner-and-movie venue in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Chandler had the idea to put that in for Batesville, but says he wife nixed that and he settled for a simple movie venue.

Chandler didn’t stop with the Melba, either. He bought the dilapidated Landers Theater, also on Main Street. The Landers, which still retained some of its more lavish features, contained projection equipment that he moved up the street. He’ll tackle the Landers renovation and its caved-in roof next, and he says that might be where the dinner-and-movie idea surfaces.

The building housing the Melba dates to 1875, and it served as an opera house for eight years before becoming a general store. Commonwealth Theatres arrived in 1940, gutting the place and putting in a steel-truss ceiling along with what reportedly was Arkansas’s first CinemaScope projector.

United Artists later operated the theater until the early 1990s before shutting it down. The movie crowd had moved to the multiplex or was staying home with their videos.

“The people I’ve met who knew about the Melba and the history that I’ve learned, that’s been one of the better aspects of doing this," said Chandler.

Main Street Van Buren Has Productive First Year

Main Street Van Buren has had a busy six months since being named Arkansas’s newest Main Street city by Governor Mike Huckabee October 1. Just weeks before the Governor’s announcement, Main Street Van Buren completed board and committee training. The training was a two-day intensive course in the four-points of the Main Street approach and was attended by over 30 members of the community and various other Main Street volunteers from throughout the state.

Diana Wilson, former director of the Ozark Chamber of Commerce and long-time board member of Main Street Ozark, was hired as executive director in July.“I’ve long been a supporter of the Main Street program as evidenced through my many years of service to Main Street Ozark and I’m very excited to help lead a brand new Main Street program,".“We have a number of items on our agenda, from streetscape improvements to special events,” she continued. “The people of Van Buren are committed to making our downtown the center of activity."

A team of downtown revitalization professionals participated in a resource team visit to Van Buren,October 15-17, 2002. Malcolm Johnstone, executive director of the West Chester, Pennsylvania, Business Improvement District; Valecia Crisafulli, senior program associate for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center; Joyce Glasscock, executive director of Main Street Keokuk, Iowa, which has been designated a Great American Main Street city, and Cary Tyson and Nancy Lowe of the Main Street Arkansas staff facilitated the visit.

“It was an intense three days, with long hours, but very productive,” Glasscock said. "I think our visit has re-energized the board and we've given them enough ideas to keep them busy for the next year or more." Members of the resource team visited with each committee and the board of directors along with city officials, business owners and others interested in revitalizing downtown Van Buren.The visit was an opportunity not just to analyze the work of the program, but to educate and promote Main Street Van Buren.

“Van Buren is fortunate to have such wonderful historic building stock,” Lowe said. The resource team presented Main Street Van Buren with a 33-page written report of observations and analysis following the visit. Among the recommendations the team provided are:

§ Establishing a “two- hat” rule. This rule provides that no one person in the organization can wear more than two “hats” at one time (being a board member is one hat, an office or committee chair is another, etc.). This principle keeps the work of the organization from being in the hands of too few people.

§ Develop “Your Guide to Doing Business in Van Buren, Arkansas” booklet. (Main Street Van Buren has recently completed this goal and is distributing the flyer throughout the city.)

§Develop “Downtown Van Buren Retail Standards” booklet.

§Enhance Internet presence.

§ Consider the potential and develop a plan for significant upper-floor residential development.

Main Street Van Buren has been active since the resource team visit. Banners and planters now line the street, giving the historic district a new look.

The program has completed its first annual report and distributed itto investors. Also, the design committee completed mini-grant design guidelines and applications. Main Street Van Buren currently is reviewing a number of applications from interested parties throughout downtown.

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