West Memphis turning water tower into art

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — As the city of West Memphis starts to revitalize its Main Street area, officials have taken the first step to attracting attention, with a 96-year-old water tower they hope will become its newest, brightest attraction.

The city of West Memphis spent almost a quarter of a million dollars refurbishing this water tower and turning it into a one-of-kind piece of art, with the goal is to remind residents and outsiders that West Memphis has a special story to tell.

The city knew it wanted to turn its water tower into something special — a celebration of all things West Memphis.

"It’s called ‘Watershed’ and that’s to give a water effect of a waterfall," said Deborah Abernathy, Main Street West Memphis executive director. "The blues that we celebrate here in West Memphis, the KWM is our original radio station ….“basically just the fact that it’s a unique piece  that’s never been done before.”

They finally landed on a 140-foot-tall piece of art. Some residents initially balked at the $240,000 price tag, but officials explain, this money is specially allocated.

“West Memphis has something that we can say is the only water tower that’s lit and has such a unique story and history behind it,” said Nick Coulter, the organization's communications director.

Thirty years ago, when the Main Street area was developed, a special projects tax was set aside, ensuring that this water tower didn’t come at the expense of another area of need.

"This project happened to come up and the money was sitting there waiting to be use," Abernathy said. "But that doesn’t mean that we used it all, it just means that we used a small portion of it.”

Barely a month after the tower was lit, the city says that the reception from West Memphians has been largely positive, with skeptics turning a corner, and long-time residents proud to see what this historic piece of the town has become.

"It’s kind of a reminder that we’re on a winning streak," Coulter said. "That’s kind of our term that we’re trying to coin. And so that water tower kind of shines that light.”

The city has actually started a social media movement called Water Tower Wednesday. For anyone who wants to take a picture, it’s located at 555 East Broadway Street.

-- By Peter Fleischer

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