(Forrest City, AR) Remember that massive fire in 2012 that destroyed several historic buildings in Forrest City, Arkansas?
It’s taken more than a year but the debris is finally gone.
And now folks are anxious to move forward with revitalizing the downtown area.
What looks like just a vacant lot is really a “blank canvas” to some people in Forrest City.
Jenny Vandiver is with a group called the Downtown Beautification Committee.
“We have potential and I think one of the places to show that potential is through the downtown. And especially with this clean slate,” she said.
When fire ravaged almost an entire block on Front Street in May 2012, it destroyed five buildings and three businesses.
After the flames were out, a mountain of bricks and charred wood remained for more than a year.
But that’s changed now and the mess is all gone.
It’s been cleaned up by the city after it took legal action against the owner of the property.
Todd Gregory works at National Carpet One south of where the fire happened.
Gregory said the view is a lot better now.
“Cause it was just unattractive, it wasn’t pleasant to look at. And customers talked about it,” Gregory said.
He hopes the land is put to a good use, even if only for a parking lot.
“Someone wanting to put in a farmers market. And I think that would be an excellent idea, it would be attractive. Maybe make a nice park out of it,” he said.
There’s still some legal wrangling left to before Forrest City officially owns all the vacant land on Front Street.
And while the now barren stretch of downtown may never look quite like it did in the 1800’s, Jenny Vandiver is determined not to stand by and let the weeds grow. Especially when she has ideas ready to take root,
“Build possibly a pavilion to maybe have festivals and events and bring the community together.”
Forrest City’s Mayor said there were already plans being reviewed to revitalize the downtown area before the fire happened last year.
It cost the city 37-thousand dollars to clear the debris and haul it away, but
that cost will be added to the land owner’s property taxes.