TEXARKANA, Ark. -- Work on planned improvements to Front Street Festival Plaza will begin within weeks, but one key component of the project -- public restrooms -- will not be installed until spring at the earliest.
Work on the plaza's stage, now a bare concrete platform, should begin in two to four weeks, City Manager Jay Ellington said. Plans include a roofed scaffolding structure around the stage to facilitate sound and lighting equipment, as well as sponsor advertising. But prefabricated restroom stalls are on back order and will be unavailable for about six months.
"It's slow based on supply and demand, as well as construction cost and time frame," Ellington said.
AMS Global of De Queen, Arkansas, will manufacture the restroom stalls, which will have water, sewer and electric connections. The company has not been immune to the supply chain disruptions that have affected the global economy, said Clint Nelson, co-owner and COO.
"I used to get doors within a week. Now they're five to six weeks," Nelson said, adding that he is happy to be doing business close to home in Southwest Arkansas.
"I've got units in Australia; Niger, Africa, at a drone base; Antarctica at a research center. So you know, it means a lot to be able to have something close," he said.
As the restrooms are being built, the city will prepare two locations for them. One is on East Front Street near the stage and east of Alley Cats Coffee Bar. The other is on city-owned land at East Front and Walnut streets. The city has also taken proposals for fencing around the site.
The city will also partner with two owners of property within the site: David Peavy, who owns the converted rail dining car now operating as Alley Cats, and Crossties Event Venue, which owns land at East Broad and Wood streets and leases a city-owned rail caboose there it operates as a drink stand called The Frozen Rail.
"We will have working agreements with both of those private operators to operate inside the site. So those will be coming forward here in the next 90 days. So this is truly a public-private venture for downtown because it it takes all of us to make this work," Ellington said.
Peavy said he has had discussions with the city on some specifics of the project, including the location of fencing.
"I like what they're doing. I would shift some things around slightly differently if it was me doing it, but I appreciate the hard work that they're doing to bring it about," Peavy said.
The overall project is on track to meet an original cost estimate of $900,000 to $950,000, "a pretty substantial investment in our entertainment district," Ellington said.
Contech Contractors Inc. of Texarkana, Texas, was the low bidder for the stage work at $310,250. Payment will come from the city's general fund and private sponsors. To pay for the restrooms, $534,000 has been allocated: $219,000 from the general fund and $315,000 from the city Advertising and Promotion Commission.
Other plans for the plaza include landscaping, lighting, amenities such as benches and shade structures, and improvements to the site's "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" rail track sculpture. A key part of the plan is to reuse salvaged vintage paving bricks to create an attractive setting for the sculpture, which Ellington envisions as the plaza's centerpiece and a gathering place for visitors.