In February of 2014, an empty building at Fourth and Main Street partially collapsed. The immediate collateral damage included a ruptured gas line and damaged cars, with traffic (both train and car) brought to a halt. Before all was said and done, the large-scale emergency response included the City of Pine Bluff bringing in the city attorney, a building inspector (again), and a demolition crew plus Entergy Corporation and CenterPoint Energy handling the risks of fire and explosion. And then the city had to face the rubble strewn across a block of Main Street … for over a year, as it turns out.
Months later, in July of 2014 and again in January and February of 2015, more buildings collapsed; and yet again, in August of 2016, another partial collapse occurred. Unlike the first collapse which resulted in an emergency demolition and clean-up, the next two left Main Street blocked with rubble for months to come … for over a year, as a matter of fact.
In the meantime, Simmons Bank, headquartered in Pine Bluff, has responded by offering low cost loans for Main Street buildings in need of rehabilitation. Also, Simmons Foundation is funding a new task force called “Go Forward Pine Bluff;” its mission is to plan for the future with an eye on growing the tax base. Additionally, the city has called on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), Institute for Economic Advancement (IEA), to devise a revitalization plan for Pine Bluff; the IEA’s research and plan development will take an estimated two years and is still in progress.
A note on the photo: This is a 2006 photo of the Jefferson County Court House, sitting at the end of Main Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Credit for this photo goes to Roland Klose (with license information here).