In February of 2014, an empty building at Fourth and Main Street partially collapsed. The immediate collateral damage included a ruptured gas line and damaged cars, with traffic (both train and car) brought to a halt. Before all was said and done, the large-scale emergency response included the City of Pine Bluff bringing in the city attorney, a building inspector (again), and a demolition crew plus Entergy Corporation and CenterPoint Energy handling the risks of fire and explosion. And then the city had to face the rubble strewn across a block of Main Street … for over a year, as it turns out.
Altogether, including that first collapse in in early 2014, Pine Bluff’s Main Street had four more collapses (though some partial): February and July of 2014; January and February of 2015; and yet again in August of 2016. The building collapses left Main Street blocked with rubble for months to come … for well over a year, as a matter of fact.
In the meantime, Simmons Bank, headquartered in Pine Bluff, has responded by offering low cost loans for Main Street buildings in need of rehabilitation. Also, Simmons Foundation is funding a new task force called “Go Forward Pine Bluff;” its mission is to plan for the future with an eye on growing the tax base. Additionally, the city has called on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), Institute for Economic Advancement (IEA), to devise a revitalization plan for Pine Bluff; the IEA’s research and plan development will take an estimated two years and is still in progress.
Watch this spot for new posts that share more detail on Pine Bluff’s Main Street revitalization. Multiple public, private, and academic partners are coming together to develop a research-driven plan for Main Street’s new beginnings. And the rest of the town? This site will also share the many positive things happening in Pine Bluff — a record year in high school students’ scholarships, a renowned university, an arts and science center serving all of southeast Arkansas, vibrant children’s sports teams, and an awesome pavilion area that often hosts farmer’s markets. What has collapsed spans a couple of blocks on one downtown street. Yes, that’s serious; but it does not define the entire city.