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December 16, 2017
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Last of four gateway projects near completion

By Tia Lyons
This article was published September 14, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

After five years, the last of the city’s four gateway monuments is expected to be erected soon along U.S. 167 south.

Mayor Frank Hash said a spot has been secured on the southeast side of town to install the monument, one of the final pieces of a three-pronged project that was approved in 2012.

Hash told members of the El Dorado Works Board that work has begun on the site, which sits atop a small bluff at the end of Lorene, just north of U.S. 82.

Robert Edmonds, director of public works, previously said the city was considering the Lorene site after attempts had fallen through to secure other possible locations for U.S. 167 south.

The monuments were part of a package of projects that was presented in 2012 to the former El Dorado Economic Development Board, which administered the former one-cent, El Dorado Forward economic development tax

A task force developed a proposal to help improve the city’s gateways, and the group presented a funding request to the EEDB.

The EEDB and the El Dorado City Council agreed to a maximum budget of $945,000 for four gateway monuments and related implements — utilities, irrigation landscaping, etc. —, wayfinding signs and two digital marquees for the El Dorado Conference Center and the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium.

The marquees were installed in 2013, and the wayfinding signs arrived a short time later.

However, the initial rollout of the wayfinding signs was not well received, with the city receiving complaints about garish, neon colors.

The city and gateway task force went back to the drawing board, collected the few signs that had been placed in Downtown El Dorado and decided to tone down the colors.

Hash said local graphic design business Artattack! is working on the redesign, which also includes new lettering.

Some of the newly refreshed way finding signs have been posted at city parks.

The rest will go up as the new Murphy Arts District gets up and running, city officials have said. The grand opening of the arts and entertainment district is set for Sept. 27 — Oct. 1.

The city is continuing to work with El Dorado Festivals and Events, Inc., who is spearheading the $100 million MAD project, to place the wayfinding signs.

“We want to be able to get folks to that venue,” Hash said, referring to MAD.

Members of the gateway task force previously explained that the wayfinding signs and the gateway monuments are intended to work in tandem, with an “outside-in” approach.

The purpose of the monuments is to welcome visitors into town and the wayfinding signs are meant to guide drivers and pedestrians to attractions, public places and other points of interest around the city.

Three of the brick gateway monuments have been installed at the Arkansas 7 spur near El Dorado Chemical Company; on U.S. 82/ Magnolia Highway near Wrights Lane; and just past Missile Mart on U.S. 167 north toward Calion.

The city has run into a few hurdles along U.S. 167 south, Hash told members of the El Dorado Works Board.

“That’s been the holdup for the fourth one. We’ve had huge difficulty finding a spot,” Hash told members of the El Dorado Works Board.

In one instance, a property owner backed out of an agreement to use private property just south of the U.S. 167/U.S. 83 exchange.

For another possible location near the Arkansas Welcome Center, the Arkansas Highways and Transportation Department did not sign off on the city’s request.

Hash said plans are coming together for the site at the end of Lorene.

“It works out better than the spots we looked at before. It’ll be sitting up high at the top of that bluff, and it’ll be visible from 167 and 82,” Hash said.

City officials have said costs for the trio of projects have come under cost projections so far, with $37,330 remaining in the $945,000 budget.

Tia Lyons can be reached at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.

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