West Memphis to spend $240K to update water tower, lure visitors from Big River Crossing

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- The Federal Compress water tower dots the skyline as you travel in to West Memphis. But up close, it's rusted and drivers can barely see the name of the company printed on it.

“It’s always been there since the beginning: 1923. People are so familiar with it that it's just part of our history,” said Deborah Abernathy, executive director of Main Street West Memphis.

That’s why she wants to give it a face lift; renderings provided by her group showed the glowing updates that a nationally-known artist plans to make to the water tower.

“It’ll pick up sunshine. It’ll pick up the light in the evening. We will plant some cotton underneath to show people what cotton looks like these days,” Abernathy said. “It’s going to have the effect of a waterfall. The steel cables are going to come down and pick up light during the day.”

There will also be a new seating area below the tower, Abernathy said. Organizers planned to change the lighting colors based on the season or closest holiday.

"We're trying to create a synergy down in this area for everyone to enjoy," Abernathy said.

West Memphis officials agreed to pay $240,000 for the project, she said.

“That’s amazing cause it’s been around so many years. That’s the thing to do, to keep it preserved,” passerby Bryan Harris said.

Organizers said the Big River Crossing provided the catalyst for the change. Thousands of new visitors visit West Memphis every weekend. They’ve never had that kind of access in this Arkansas suburb separated from Memphis by water.

“We are always looking for investors to put in restaurants and businesses like everyone else. I think it shows we make a commitment to our community by investing in such a large project,” Abernathy said.

They wanted to begin work in June and to finish by the end of the year, she said.