Officials discuss project plans at Pine Bluff

Mayor Shirley Washington’s office recently provided an update on several initiatives and projects underway at Pine Bluff, particularly regarding the former Bank of America building, Opportunity House, Enterprise Fleet Management and Pine Bluff Aquatics, as well as a field trip that city officials conducted for Texarkana.

“The Executive Office has had conversations with a company interested in purchasing the former Bank of America building. Unfortunately, upon further consideration, the owner of the company recently advised our office that was more interested in submitting an offer for the property,” officials said in the memo.

Washington added that because there were no viable candidates to lease or buy the building, the city needed to make repairs to the air circulation system in the building.

“John Smith, Maintenance Manager, has completed the RFP process for air handler replacement proposals with only one company, Mechanical Service Company, d/b/a Powers, responding”, officials said. “Air circulation in the building is essential as the summer months approach to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, hence the management to move forward with the bid proposal.”

A resolution authorizing Washington to sign an agreement with Mechanical Service Co. to perform the air handler replacement at a cost of $54,909 has been drafted and will be presented to City Council for consideration and approval.

The mayor’s office extended the request for quotes to identify homeless shelter operators for the House of Opportunity on June 1 to allow additional time for qualified organizations to submit their proposals.

According to the memo, Washington has connected with DePaul USA, a national nonprofit homeless-serving organization with multiple sites operated across the country, including Jericho Way in Little Rock, which wants to answer the call. tenders with a proposal.

“Representatives from Jericho Way also visited Pine Bluff on May 18 to tour the Opportunity House as part of their assessment process,” the memo reads. “A few members of the House Committee are also planning to visit Jericho Way and St. Francis on Friday, May 27, 2022, for a ‘window’ into how DePaul USA operates these facilities.”

According to the memo, the final architectural design plans were presented on May 23 by Ron Woods of Woods Group Architects Inc. to the internal committee. Larry Matthews, director of economic and community development, will present plans for consideration at the next public works committee meeting, according to Washington.

On May 23, Washington signed a lease agreement materializing the contract between the City of Pine Bluff and Enterprise Fleet Management. Enterprise Fleet Management will now place orders for the first batch of vehicles (Chevy Traverses and Silverados) by the end of the month, then place a second order of vehicles in July. The vehicles will be used by the police department.

The memo also mentions that the Carl A. Redus Jr. Aquatic Center will launch a six-week “Learn to Swim” summer program from June 6 to July 28 for children unable to swim between the ages of 3 and 17. Registration for this program began on May 19, with places filling up quickly. This is the second year that the free swimming program has been offered to young people in the community.

A small contingent of representatives from the mayor’s office, urban renewal, and the department of economic and community development also traveled to Texarkana to meet with city officials from the twin city recently.

According to the memo, the mayor’s office initiated the fact-finding trip based on a presentation the Texarkana Community Development Team gave at the 47th Neighborhoods USA Conference.

Officials said the primary purpose of the trip was to gain more information regarding this region’s revitalization efforts in crucial areas of the city such as Downtown and the South Boston Corridor.

“Individually, these cities have a population of less than 40,000, but through their combined efforts, outreach to private developers, community support and mobilization of various funding resources, they have been able to influence on major economic development in the region,” officials said.

The main highlights of the trip included a visit to Hotel Grim, a historic hotel that has been vacant for over 30 years and is in a dilapidated state, similar to the Pines Hotel in Pine Bluff. The hotel is being completely restored to include 93 affordable apartments, a large lobby, gym, business center, cafe and public meeting room.

The City of Texarkana partnered with private developers to make this vision a reality, with a total project price of $26 million, of which $2.4 million came from the city.

Restoring hotels to affordable housing has been an important driver of economic development for cities, as it has drawn investors and businesses to downtown, officials said.

The group also visited the 1894 City Market, a mixed-use development that was converted from a former train station. The area includes market-priced lofts, an art gallery and commercial space on the ground floor, all developed by a private investor.

The Go Forward Pine Bluff team will host a community town hall at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 23 at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. According to the mayor’s memo, the purpose of City Hall is to provide citizens with an update regarding Go Forward’s programs and allow citizens to ask questions and receive answers from Go Forward management. Forward.

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