As work continued on the new Pine Bluff/Jefferson County library during 2019, another public facility was dedicated and work finally began on the long awaited Streetscape project which goes back as far as the Carl Redus administration and the
“Penny for Progress” sales tax approved by voters in 2011.
Construction on the 32,000 square foot library began late in 2018 and continued throughout the year and city officials, as well as library staff and board members hope to be able to move into the new facility during the first quarter of 2020.
When finished, the library will contain a dedicated area for computer training covering a variety of skills, a computer labs as activities and learning centers, public meeting rooms and a coffee shop.
In 2016, Pine Bluff voters approved a 3.0 mill tax increase to raise $14 million to pay for not only the new library but renovations to the Watson Chapel library branch. At the same time, county voters approved a 0.25 mill increase to pay for renovations to the White Hall, Redfield and Altheimer library branches.
Directly across the street from the new library is the Main Street Plaza at 601 Main St.
At a dedication ceremony May 1, Mayor Shirley Washington said that 10 years ago, 601 Main St., was a detail shop and before than a gas station. “It sat unutilized in the heart of downtown and was somewhat of an eyesore,” she said.
Plans for the plaza include a stage area with the curved backdrop for public programs and events, an open area in the center providing space for lawn chairs during community concerts or other seating provided by event planners.
The plaza was the site of the third “Pop Up in the Bluff” on Sept. 21.
Also, the Aquatic Center, located near the Civic Center complex and the Convention Center opened just before the July 4 holiday, the first public pool in the city since the pool at Townsend Park closed more than 40 years ago, and has since hosted swim meets that have attracted several hundred swimmers and adults to the facility.
Regarding the Streetscape project, city officials, members of the Chamber of Commerce Red Coats, architects and engineers gathered in November for a symbolic turning of dirt to kick off the project, which involved improvements to 13 blocks in the downtown area area, especially Main Street which will see traffic lanes reduced from four to two, wider sidewalks, landscaping with new trees and flowerbeds, water gardens, bike racks and parallel parking. There will also be new street lighting and water and utility lines will be moved underground.
A total of $2 million was allocated from receipts of the 2011 Penny for Progress Tax to pay for the work, and the city received a $1.35 million grant from the Delta Regional Authority and $! million from the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
In addition, the Generator, a part of the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative is expected to be completed and opened in 2020.