Printer Friendly

Reviving the boom: El Dorado's revitalized downtown has 96 percent occupancy rate.

Six years ago, Elizabeth and Mike Eggleston of El Dorado made a major move.

The two business owners relocated their specialty shop, Kitchens & Baths, from a proven location to El Dorado's downtown square.

Why was the move significant?

It helped set the stage for the revival of downtown.

"When I was growing up, downtown was thriving," says Elizabeth Eggleston, 44. "I wanted to see that again."

Shopping centers had drained the vitality from many downtowns across the state. El Dorado was no exception.

The oil town had seen its downtown go bust.

Now, 18 service-oriented and 15 retail businesses call downtown home. The occupancy rate is 96 percent.

In 1987, a group of El Dorado merchants, property owners and preservationists decided to revive the square. El Dorado was accepted the following year as a participant in Main Street Arkansas, a program sponsored by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission and the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.

Elise Drake was hired as the director of Main Street El Dorado.

"Downtown had been turned into a pedestrian mall, and it was a resounding failure," she says.

A survey revealed downtown El Dorado needed three things:

* A return of office workers to provide a customer base.

* More restaurants. People won't shop where they can't eat.

* Better customer service.

"We also found we had a small tourist base," Drake says. "That blew our minds. If we were attracting these tourists without even trying, we wondered what would happen if we actually sent a message that said, 'Hey, come shop with us.'"

Achieving Goals

The 16-member Main Street El Dorado board began working to achieve its goals.

Since the program's inception, more than $2.5 million has been invested downtown by the private sector. Ninety-five percent of the program's annual budget comes from private donations.

Two restaurants, a sports shop and an art gallery have opened downtown since the beginning of the year.

Historic business facades and the Union County Courthouse are landmarks that attract thousands of people each year, especially during the annual El Dorado Historic Walking Tour.

Elizabeth Eggleston is proud that her business move paid off.

"We had more at stake than just our business," she says. "We put our heart and soul into this."

Eggleston is the Main Street El Dorado board president for 1992.

"People come here and tell us this lovely town is a well-kept secret," she says.

John Talpas, a board member and vice president of manufacturing at Great Lakes Chemical Corp., says he is working to let that secret out of the bag.

"To effectively recruit key professional people to a small town in Arkansas, a community must have a good quality of life," he says. "A key part of any community is its downtown business district. El Dorado's downtown has improved my company's ability to attract and keep high-caliber people.

"Most people are pleasantly surprised when they come to El Dorado."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Across Arkansas; commercial buildings
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 29, 1992
Previous Article:Building a better image: construction industry promotes training programs in an attempt to avoid labor shortage.
Next Article:Hammering out a business: Stone County Ironworks hopes to expand European sales.

Related Articles
Office market shuffle; occupancy rates slowly improve, but lease rates are still lagging.
Baptist is biggest.
The battle for real estate supremacy.
Reaching a plateau?
Deltic's plant, Hot Springs center boost Southwest.
Residential building permits fall dramatically in NW.
Hotel Construction Cools as Occupancy Rates Drop.
'Good enough'. (Editorial).
El Dorado downtown offers model.
El Dorado economic base: oil, timber, manufacturing.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters