Main Street El Dorado just wrapped the July installment of Summer of the Square, the first of the year, and as the group works its way through its schedule of events for 2022, MSE is continuing efforts to improve economic vitality in the city's historic downtown.
Within the past year, MSE has accomplished two of its long-term goals -- to install ambient sound and launch a crosswalk art project to enhance the downtown experience.
Both projects had been under discussion since 2018, both got underway in 2021 and both have been a hit with downtown visitors, local and out of town, MSE board members have said.
Crosswalk art can be found at three intersections within the Union Square District, with colorful designs that reflect nearby businesses.
For instance, a mural at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Elm Street features a bird with wings outspread and flanked by various gemstones -- a nod to Murphy-Pitard Jewelers, which is just north of the crosswalk.
Other crosswalk murals can be found at the intersections of Washington Avenue and Elm and Main Street and Jefferson.
And more crosswalk art is coming.
Beth Brumley, executive director of MSE, and Janis Van Hook, president of Keep El Dorado Beautiful, said the two groups have been talking about adding a mural representing KEB.
KEB's mission is to engage the community in building a sustainable campaign to help keep the city clean.
The crosswalk murals are funded by sponsors, with assistance from MSE, and are painted by local artists.
MSE is looking to implement other projects, including more public artwork, that MSE is looking to implement downtown.
The group is continuing discussions about benches, pet-friendly implements, more hand-sanitizing stations, new planters, etc.
During a regular MSE meeting last month, board members noted that what seemed to be new benches had recently sprouted up downtown and they learned from city street superintendent James Lewis that city crews had repaired, spruced up and re-set a few existing benches.
In preparation of the 2023 Arkansas Governor's Conference on Tourism, MSE is working with other local groups who are coordinating and helping to plan the conference to set up way-finding signs.
The 49th annual conference will be held Feb. 26 - 28, marking the first time the conference will be held in El Dorado.
The ambient sound system went online last October, piping music throughout the Union Square District, particularly in retail-heavy areas along Main Street between Cleveland and Hill avenues and Washington Avenue between Oak and Cedar streets.
The system is also used for announcements.
The system was funded by $37,110 from the El Dorado Works tax to purchase equipment and cover the costs of installation.
MSE is kicking in $10,000 to take care of monthly Internet and licensing fees.
Board members have said the ambient sound system fits the MSE vision statement of "maintaining a stimulating atmosphere to attract local out-of-town guests to promote economic development, entertainment and tourism."
Brumley previously said that funding from the city for the sound system and other financial contributions helped MSE free up money for the crosswalk art project.
MSE board members also reported last month that cosmetics retailer Merle Norman, 108 N. Washington, is expected to close by the end of the summer.
The business was previously located on North Jefferson and it briefly closed before relocating to and re-opening on North Washington.