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Historic surveys in Retta Brown, Country Club Colony neighborhoods underway

by Tia Lyons | December 10, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
A worker from Terracon Consultant Services, Inc. surveys properties in the Mellor Park area in this News-Times file photo.

The contract has been signed for the next round of Determination of Eligibility (DOE)/Cultural Resources surveys and inventories for neighborhoods in the city.

The work will focus on the Retta Brown and Country Club Colony (CCC) neighborhoods to ascertain if the areas are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Members of the El Dorado Historic District Commission said an agreement for professional services was signed Oct. 29 by Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer and the Austin, Texas-based Cox|McClain Environmental Consulting, Inc., who is conducting the surveys and inventories for the two neighborhoods.

The project is the latest step by the EHDC to implement a citywide historic preservation plan.

Among its recommendations, the plan -- which was drafted in 2020, per a project that was spearheaded by the EHDC -- lists Retta Brown and Country Club Colony as priority projects.

During an EHDC regular meeting Thursday, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said Terracon Consultant Services, Inc., is wrapping up work on a DOE survey and inventory for properties the Mellor, Bodenhamer, Forest Lawn and Eastridge subdivisions -- another priority project that is cited in the citywide historic preservation plan.

With 326 properties included in the survey area, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said the Mellor, et. al, survey is the largest such project the commission has undertaken.

Terracon is headquartered in Kansas and a team from the firm's Austin, Texas, office began fieldwork in El Dorado in March.

Nov. 1 was the start date for Cox|McClain to begin its survey and inventory for Retta Brown and Country Club Colony.

The firm is expected to submit the first 10 Arkansas Architectural Resources Forms for each survey by Feb. 15.

Eggleston said she will contact Cox|McClain for an update on the work the firm has done thus far.

All of the surveys are being funded by Certified Local Government (CLG) grants that are funneled through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP).

CLGs are part of a collaboration between the National Park Service (NPS), the AHPP and local governments in cities and counties to preserve historic resources on the local level.

El Dorado is one of 21 CLGs in Arkansas and in 2019 and 2020, the city received the two largest CLG grants, $42,000 and $49,049, respectively, that have been awarded by the state.

Most of the 2019 grant funded the work that went into drafting the comprehensive historic preservation plan for El Dorado.

The $42,000 grant was paired with a $10,000 match from the one-cent, El Dorado Works tax, which is dedicated to economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.

The match was not required in the terms of the grant agreement but historic district commissioners said at the time that the $10,000 demonstrated the city's support of the effort and made up the balance that was needed to develop the preservation plan at a cost of $46,574.

The grant also covered other components of EHDC operations -- including the executive director's salary, training for commissioners and membership fees into historic preservation organizations.

In 2020, the city received a larger CLG grant -- $49,049 --, which was largely used to fund the survey and inventory for the Mellor, et. al, subdivisions.

For the 2021 - 2022 CLG grant cycle, the city was initially awarded a grant of $22,648 for the DOE survey of the Retta Brown and Country Club Colony neighborhoods.

In September, Eggleston explained that the DOE survey for Country Club Colony -- which is bordered by North West Avenue, 19th Street, Calion Road and the El Dorado Golf and Country Club -- was going to cost more than expected.

Consequently, the state directed the grant toward the CCC survey and asked the EHDC to submit the Retta Brown proposal in an application for the next CLG grant cycle.

A month later, Eggleston told commissioners that the state had again amended the terms of the CLG grant, this time, to include more money for the Retta Brown project.

A total of 110 properties, including the former Retta Brown Elementary School, will be included in the DOE survey for the Retta Brown and Country Club neighborhoods.

Once the surveys are completed, the information will be presented to the EHDC and AHPP for approval.

The documents will then be forwarded to the State Review Board (SRB) for an assessment and if OK'd by the SRB, a nomination to the NRHP will be submitted to the National Park Service for a final vote.

For the 2022 - 2023 CLG grant application, EHDC members have agreed to include an African-American context as the next project that is recommended in the citywide historic preservation plan.

The African-American context will identify notable Black people, businesses, churches, neighborhoods, landmarks, etc., in El Dorado.

In other business Thursday, the EHDC voted to re-appoint commissioners Ken Bridges and Steve Biernacki to serve another term each on the commission.

Their current terms expire this month.

Commissioners also elected officers for 2022, keeping Bridges on as chairman and voting for Commissioner Sara Coffman as vice-chairman.

The deadline is Dec. 24 to submit a Certificate of Appropriateness application for he EHDC's next regular meeting on Jan. 13.

COAs are required for most exterior projects that are proposed within the city's commercial historic district, which largely encompasses downtown El Dorado, and will affect the historical and architectural integrity of the district.

Print Headline: Historic surveys in Retta Brown, Country Club Colony neighborhoods underway

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