Historic District Commission hopes to increase outreach efforts in 2022

The El Dorado Historic District Commission hopes to create a sensation in 2022 by educating the community about its mission and raising awareness of the importance of preserving the city’s history and heritage.

Commissioner Sara Coffman kicked off a lengthy discussion of outreach efforts on December 9 at the EHDC’s last regular meeting of the year.

“I would like to make sure that the town of El Dorado knows who we are and I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but what we do is important… and it really spreads throughout the community,” Coffman said. .

She called on the commission to come up with ideas to engage the community in historic preservation projects that go through the EHDC.

Coffman said she volunteered to help organize the El Dorado 2021 Christmas Parade, telling commissioners she was fascinated to get a first-hand glimpse of the work involved in presenting the parade.

Much like planning for South Arkansas’ biggest Christmas parade, Coffman said many local residents are unaware of the work the EHDC is doing to preserve the city’s heritage.

“People really don’t know what we’re trying to do and that’s take care of our city. It’s not about being (the pretty police),” Coffman said.

The conversation stems from similar discussions the commissioners had in October on how best to expand the reach of the EHDC and involve the community in historic preservation.

The commissioners then agreed that they should raise awareness and emphasize the importance of historic preservation resources in El Dorado – a recommendation that was also made in a city-wide historic preservation plan that was drafted in last year.

The EHDC spearheaded the project, which was funded by a state-certified local government grant in the amount of $ 42,000 and a matching $ 10,000 of the one cent tax, El Dorado Works.

The municipal sales tax is dedicated to economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality of life projects and is administered by the El Dorado Works Council, of which Coffman is treasurer.

Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said the comprehensive plan provides the City and Historic District Commission with a roadmap to identify notable people and historic buildings, places and resources in El Dorado.

For example, Eggleston said the plan recommends projects and sets priorities, such as Determination of Eligibility (DOE) / cultural resource surveys and inventories for several neighborhoods in the city, including Mellor, Bodenhamer housing estates. , Forest Lawn and Eastridge, and the Retta Brown and Quartiers Country Club Colony (CCC) subdivisions.

Investigations will determine if areas are eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Terracon Consultant Services, Inc., completes investigation work for Mellor, Bodenhamer, Forest Lawn and Eastridge and a contract has been signed for Cox | McClain Environmental Consulting, Inc., to begin DOE investigations for Retta Brown and Country Club Colony.

The surveys are also funded by grants from the CLG.

Economic impact and preparatory work

Eggleston and EHDC President Ken Bridges noted that historic preservation efforts have an economic impact on the community – another point that was cited in the city-wide plan.

Eggleston said the EHDC has led efforts to establish the historic commercial and residential districts of the city and to secure the districts and / or individual properties in the districts listed on the National Register.

As a result, El Dorado Festivals and Events, Inc., applied for and received historic preservation tax credits – state and federal – to help develop the Murphy Arts District, which is part of the Historic Commercial District.

With the foundation already laid by the EHDC, Eggleston said MAD was able to save millions of dollars on the development of the entertainment district.

The work included a reallocation and restoration of the historic Griffin Auto building on Locust Street.

The building, which once housed a car dealership and decades later El Dorado Glass and Mirror Company, now houses the [email protected] restaurant and the First Financial Music Hall.

“Another thing is, when they applied for funding, because the (historic commercial district) was already established, that put them ahead of five years,” Eggleston said.

“If they had to start from scratch with the paperwork, they would have had to hire someone, so it not only saved money, it also saved time,” he said. she continued.

Coffman noted that his fellow ISF members were unaware that MAD projects were eligible for tax credits because of the work done by the EHDC.

Over the past 10 years, the city has committed over $ 20 million from El Dorado works and old El Dorado Forward taxes to the development of MAD.

The El Dorado Forward tax – also a one-cent municipal sales tax that was dedicated to the economic development project – expired in 2015 after eight years.

That same year, El Dorado voters approved the El Dorado Works tax in a special election. The tax ends in 2025.

Historic District Commissioner Diane Murfee said her home, known historically as the Oakland Home at 3800 Calion Road, is also listed on the NRHP, thanks to EHDC’s help in the nomination process .

“I don’t just think people don’t know what the Historic District Commission is, they don’t know what we did,” Murfee said.

The group was also involved in an effort to preserve the South Arkansas Regional Airport terminal at Goodwin Field after the El Dorado Airport Commission voted in 2015 to raze the building of the post-war period and rebuild it.

Murfee’s husband – Mickey Murfee, who is now chairman of the airport commission – has expressed the only non-vote to demolish the existing building.

The EHDC joined state and federal preservation groups to help save the terminal. The airport commission is working to raise funds to renovate and repair the building.

Historic District Commissioner Linda Rathbun asked how the EHDC could engage the community, saying few showed up to an open house held in late 2019 to solicit public input into the preservation plan city-wide.

“People really don’t go out… participation was pretty rare,” Rathbun said.

In October, Rathbun said she believed the EHDC should implement a multi-faceted marketing campaign that includes a mix of signage, print materials and digital media.

Commissioner Steve Biernacki said at the time that he felt that some of the traditional marketing tools, such as printed materials, were obsolete.

He said the “younger generation” may not be aware of local historical facts and resources, adding “they mostly get their information” through digital / electronic means.

Referring to the Christmas parade, Coffman suggested on December 9 that the EHDC get into a float in Case 2022 to help increase its visibility.

She said the commission could also highlight and present to the community three properties with which the EHDC has contributed to national registry listing; helped to receive tax credits to repair, restore or remodel; or has approved a Certificate of Suitability for applicable exterior projects – including signage, awnings or replacement of windows, doors or bricks – in the Historic Commercial District.

“I think education is a big part of the process and we haven’t done a very good job with education,” said Diane Murfee.

Bridges suggested that the EHDC form a subcommittee to study the issue and come up with ideas and recommendations to promote the commission and historic preservation in El Dorado.

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