Today is the last day to complete an online community survey to help Main Street El Dorado set goals and assess the needs for local residents and visitors for the city's Central Business District.
Friday was the last day to submit hard copies of the Downtown El Dorado Survey, which consists of 11 questions.
The final question, which asks for the participant's name and contact information, is optional.
MSE opened the survey late last month, saying that the survey provides an opportunity for local residents and out-of-town visitors to make their voices heard in a plan that will develop goals and set priorities for the city's award-winning historic downtown.
Beth Brumley, executive director of MSE, said she was shooting for a goal of at least 3,000 responses.
By Nov. 14, nearly 950 responses had come in and Brumley she was hoping for a minimum of 1,000 more.
MSE is partnering with the University of Central Arkansas Center for Community Design and Development, who drafted the survey and will compile the results.
MSE board members have said results from the survey will be incorporated into a new strategic plan that MSE is preparing for 2024.
Additionally, the results will help MSE identify projects that can help grow downtown El Dorado and make the destination more inclusive, Brumley has said.
Brumley and Holly McDonald, MSE executive assistant, have said the survey takes approximately two minutes to complete.
A Spanish-language version was available in hard-copy form.
Brumley said she was surprised by some of the comments from surveys that had been submitted by Nov. 14.
For instance, Brumley said several responders cited "empty storefronts" as an issue for downtown El Dorado.
Brumley noted that the Central Business District, which is included within the MSE footprint, maintains a fairly high business occupancy rate and "pretty quick turnovers."
She noted some recent business openings and closings downtown, including:
Ike's Rides Scooter Rental, which opened last month at 108 N. Washington and held its grand opening on Nov. 7.
The El Dorado House, which opened in October at 209 E. Main.
The Pallet Store, which opened at 111 E. Main.
Oddities Novelties & More, 408 S. Washington, recently announced that it is closing its doors after 28 years in business.
The business will close once its stock sells out.
Brumley also reported that the property at 111 E. Main, formerly Mina Rhea's Antiques and Embroideries, recently sold to a new owner.
Mina Rhea's closed the weekend of Oct. 20 and 21 and is moving to Hampton, Brumley said.
In another response to the downtown survey, a participant suggested an amusement park downtown.
Brumley said Min Rhea's closed during the weekend of MusicFest XXXV, Oct. 6 and 7, and is moving to Hampton.
MSE board members said they do not know where such an attraction would fit into the area, with Brumley noting that viable suggestions will be forwarded to the MSE design committee for consideration and potential implementation.
Board members are preparing a proposal to present to the El Dorado City Council for MSE's annual contract for services with the city and while conducting research, Brumley said she perused Placer.ai data, which showed that at least 1.3 million visitors have flowed through downtown this year through Nov. 10.
Placer.ai software uses cellular phone data to count the number of people who gather in a designated radius.
Of the 1.3 million visitors, 166,000 were unique, with some having come through the MSE footprint more than once, Brumley said.
The Placer program takes a count in areas where MSE outdoor events are concentrated, including the streets that immediately surround the Union County Courthouse -- Elm, Jefferson, Main and Washington -- and the section of Cleveland Avenue between Main and Elm.
The MSE footprint encompasses the area between Peach and Hillsboro and North West Avenue and the railroad tracks that intersect several streets on the east side of town, including the area of Main and Madison.
"That report shows the opportunity you have as a city -- that that many people are visiting this small area and how you can capitalize on it," MSE board member Sarah Walls said. "That's something for us as a community to build on."
To participate in the Downtown El Dorado Survey, visit the MSE website at www.mainstreeteldorado.org, www.surveymonkey.com/r/mainstreeteldorado or www.uca.edu/go.eldorado.
Small business grant
In other business, MSE board president Dawne Kelly reported that the numbers are still coming in from MusicFest 2023 and a few bills are outstanding.
Brumley issued a reminder that a portion of the proceeds will be used to fund a new grant for downtown businesses.
MusicFest is MSE's flagship event and its largest fundraiser and in September, MSE announced that it is introducing a new grant program to celebrate the 35th anniversary of MusicFest and to benefit a small business within the MSE footprint.
Brumley explained that the new grant is similar to MSE's mini-grant program, which is funded each year by a Downtown Revitalization Grant that is awarded by the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, via the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Mini-grants may be used for exterior and some interior improvement projects.
Brumley said the DTR grants cover a limited number of exterior projects, while the MusicFest grant will assist business owners with such projects as purchasing a new point-of-sale system, setting up a website or paying for a short-term/contracted position to manage the business's social media pages.
She said the MSE design and economic vitality committees are still hammering out the criteria for the grant application and expect to get the program up and rolling next year.
"It's a way to give back to small businesses within our footprint and encourage small businesses to encourage people to participate in Musicfest," said Brumley.
"People don't realize that MusicFest is a fundraiser and this is way to show where the money goes, other than public art and some of the other projects that we do downtown," she continued.
The MSE board also elected a new slate of officers for 2024.
They include Melissa Balentine, president; Karen Todd, vice president; Paul Waschka, treasurer; and Victoria Young, secretary.