Downtown Batesville could receive facelift

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Major changes could be coming to Main Street in downtown Batesville.

Main Street Batesville, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the downtown area, revealed plans for a new streetscape that would increase foot traffic and bring in new businesses to the street.

Joel Williams, executive director of Main Street Batesville, said the nonprofit is currently testing new angled parking spots and a narrowed, one-lane road with an s-curve to slow traffic.

The extra space will create larger walking areas and additional parking spots.

Williams said the number one complaint from Main Street business owners was there is not enough parking. He said this project will increase parking availability by at least 35 percent.

"It's a total revitalization," Williams said. "If you have a small business concept, this is the type of environment we're making for you to thrive."
Main Street Batesville's project also aims to make the street more appealing to the eye. The organization plans to plant trees and shrubs along the street and replace stoplights with four-way stop signs.
"We're going to be taking those and burying them underneath the street itself so a total elimination of the wires you see," Williams said. "It's all these little touches that sort of reinvent the area, make it more inviting and pedestrian friendly."
One store owner hopes the project increases business, too.

"I grew up here on Main Street with my family's business," said Curt Thompson with Thompson's Jewelry.

Thompson's grandfather opened the jewelry store in 1924. Now 90 years later, Thompson said business has slowed down.
"It's not where we want it to be," Thompson said. "One of these days, we're gonna make some money."

That day may come sooner rather than later if Main Street Batesville's plan becomes a reality.

Williams said he will make it happen because the project is personal.

"I come from a downtown where our Main Street died," Williams said. "My family runs a third-generation hardware store on it and we are successful. We were able to hold on and really live through it because we took care of our own."

However, Williams said he wants the city of Batesville to take care of its own so individual families do not struggle alone like his did.

"I look at it [downtown Batesville] now and I can tell that we are on the right path and we can definitely help make this Main Street into a better environment. Give people a reason to come downtown again."

Williams is now working on approval and funding for these changes. He hopes to have the entire project complete by 2017.
If anyone is interested in donating to the project, visit the Main Street Batesville website or call Williams at 870-698-1555.

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