EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third of the four-part series Decoding the Decade examining the community's successes and growth. Today's installment highlights several improvements in Texarkana and the surrounding areas.
Construction begins on Texas-side convention center
Ground was broken in March on the Hilton Garden Inn and Texarkana, Texas, Convention Center on Cowhorn Creek Road.
Jack Daugherty, the hotel developer, said the sites should be open for business in 15 months.
Daugherty Property Group was investing $24 million for the hotel/convention center, including funds designated from the city's hotel/motel tax collections. The city has been setting aside money for a convention center since 2005.
"All of those revenues that come in when a visitor stays here and they pay that hotel/motel tax, that's what's being used to go back into this project, so there's no local dollars in it at all," City Manager Larry Sullivan said.
The city had set aside about $1 million, which Sullivan said will levy $7 million for the center's construction. The city will continue designating a portion of the hotel tax revenue for the center's expense.
The convention center was slated to feature a ballroom with seating for 1,000, which could be cordoned off into separate rooms for multiple events. The six-story Hilton Garden Inn would offer 155 rooms.
Brian Daugherty said the location at 4610 Cowhorn Creek Road was selected because it is at the center of Texarkana's medical, retail, educational and financial communities. The design would enable Texarkana to host events it could not host previously.
Apartment complex goes up
The Dallas-based Encore Multi-Family LLC started construction in July on 168 apartment units on the west side of Pleasant Grove Road at its intersection with the future westward extension of Gibson Lane.
The project cost $14.9 million and was financed by a $12.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Encore contributed the other $2.7 million to build these market-rate, nonsubsidized, Class A apartments on 10 acres of land, according to Encore. Encore bought the 10 acres for $828,000.
The 168 units were contained in seven, three-story residential complexes that were completed in about a year.
Rental rates were between $779 and $930 per month for 84 one-bedroom and 84 two-bedroom units.
Groundbreaking on second convention center
Groundbreaking for the Texarkana Convention Center and Holiday Inn Hotel in the Crossroads Business Park in October marked the start of Phase 1 of the 22,000-square-foot facility on the Arkansas side.
Phase 2 will involve plans for Holiday Springs Water Park, which will be behind the convention center. The park will be 4 to 5 acres.
"When I first became mayor, I was asked about the convention center. Some said it would never come. I was positive from Day 1, and it's certainly positive for those naysayers that said this wouldn't come," Mayor Wayne Smith said at the time. "It's coming and it
Dr. Hiren Patel and father, Dinesh, were the investors behind the project. The hotel and center eventually ran into financial difficulties and now are under new ownership.
The layout was designed to be a social hub, taking the bar inside the hotel and making it the center of services, which include a restaurant, game room and business center.
The hotel has 127 rooms and suites and a full-service restaurant.
The convention center can host 1,000 people and has several smaller meeting rooms.
Construction would cost $18 million, Patel said at the time, and should be completed in about nine months.
Tenants move into new public housing
The first units of the nearly finished $18 million Pecan Ridge apartment town-house buildings were occupied in December.
Pecan Ridge, built on eight acres in the 2200 block of West 15th Street, replaced the former 1942-vintage Stevens Courts public-housing site. The complex consists of about 27 buildings containing 124 apartment units—about 30 of which are designated as public housing.
Unlike the barracks-style exterior and compact interior living quarters offered by the old Stevens Courts, Pecan Ridge offers more spacious living arrangements, said HATT Executive Director Naomi Byrne at the time.
"The look of Pecan Ridge, like the Oaks at Rose Hill, is actually more community and neighborhood friendly," she said.
Pecan Ridge has its own clubhouse, fitness center, meeting space, washer and dryer room and even a small library.
A $2.76 million construction project to expand Bringle Lake Park on its east side began in July 2013 along University Avenue in Texarkana. The funding for the construction came from 2009 bond money and $800,000 in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone funding.
When the Texarkana, Texas, City Council voted to give the green light to developer Sari & Co. to restore the Hotel Grim in April 2014, the packed crowd conveyed their reaction with a standing ovation and cheering. Before the vote, Community Redevelopment and Grants Executive Director Craig Lindholm told the council about how their vote for the Grim, which has sat vacant since it was closed in 1990, would be a step toward allowing downtown a chance to be reborn.
In April 2015, city officials were pleased with the completion of the updates to the Interstate 30 water tower. The graphic of the longtime city motto "Texarkana is Twice as Nice" was updated on the tower. Outlines of Texas and Arkansas were also painted on the tower. The tower was built between 1970 and 1971 and had last been last painted in 1995.
Hotel Grim project gets grant
The city of Texarkana, Texas, announced in January 2017 that Department of Housing and Urban Development had approved more than $1.4 million in loan guarantees. At the time, this was seen as the final element of the Grim project's financing.
And yet, here we are, two years and five months later, and not much has changed.
Things are moving forward, to a degree, maybe even picking up momentum, but the visible evidence of progress is not so obvious.
The developer has handed off the project to a development company. Some activity has been bubbling about the site in the last few months, which is encouraging. When everything does finally come together, the Grim will convert to about 98 affordable family apartments on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor. Efficiency, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units will be available.
The overall project cost is estimated at $20 million, with $12 million to $13 million in construction costs.
Will construction begin this year?
Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.
Second welcome sign goes up
Construction began in January on the flagstone sign, which reads "Welcome to Texarkana" in blue letters, the same color as the Texas side city's emblem. The letters are back-lit with LED lights to welcome visitors after the sun goes down each day.
The signage greets eastbound drivers on Interstate 30 at the Kings Highway exit.
"It's just going to be a very nice entryway for those coming into our city from the west," Mayor Bob Bruggeman said at the time.
The idea was prompted when the city of Texarkana, Ark., placed a similar sign by the interstate a year earlier. The idea was to have "bookends" on each side of Texarkana."
MTG Engineers designed the sign and Four Thirteen, Inc. was the high bidder on the project. The price tag was $80,000.
City tears down Kress Building
An empty lot is all that is left at 116 W. Broad St. downtown, where the Kress Building stood until its demolition by the city of Texarkana, Texas. The long-derelict building had become little more than a dangerous pile of rubble when the city decided to demolish it rather than attempting a much more expensive restoration.
Gator Industrial of Joplin, Mo., submitted the winning bid for the project at more than $629,000.
Demolition began May 15. Wet weather in August and some unexpectedly painstaking manual tasks along the way slowed progress at times. Workers salvaged many of the glazed terra cotta tiles from the building's facade, as well as enough of the building's canopy that it could be accurately restored. The city is storing the salvaged materials. There is hope the front of the building can be restored someday.
The city accepted the building as a donation in 2009. It was a former S.H. Kress and Co. department store, notable for its art deco architecture.
Crews dredge Spring Lake to improve water quality
The city of Texarkana, Texas, contracted with Tatum Excavating Co. to engage in a dredging project for the pond at Spring Lake Park. Gathering silt was the problem.
As the pond grew shallow, with just a few inches of water at its deepest point, plants and algae dominated and reduced oxygen levels in the water. This made the pond increasingly unhealthy for the animals, as well as unpleasant and unhealthy for park visitors.
"The whole project is unique in that it never has been done before," said Texarkana, Texas, Parks and Recreation Director Robby Robertson at the time. "It will greatly improve the health of the pond."
The project's price tag was $875,000.
By December, the lake had been dug out to 10 feet at its deepest point and the earthen dam holding the spring back had been removed. Contractors later added finishing touches, such as putting in the stone reinforcement that will shore up the pond's edge.
Hempstead County gets a new courthouse
Farmers Bank & Trust finalized an agreement with the Hempstead County Quorum Court in December 2017 to sell its main bank building in Hope, Ark., for $1.5 million. It would then become the country's courthouse.
The building is at 200 E. Third St. in the downtown area of Hope.
"We hope that our building transfer will serve as a win-win situation for the staff and residents of Hempstead County and our company," said Bob Burns, FB&T chairman of the board and a Hope native, said at the time.
Moving the courthouse downtown to the bank building will help revitalize the town, said Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse. The majority of courthouses in Southwest Arkansas were built during the 1930s by the Work Projects Administration, and show signs of age. The county faced the quandary of repairing and upgrading the courthouse building to meet national building standards.
The Farmers Bank building has 36,000 square feet of floor space compared to the exiting courthouse, which has 33,000 square feet.