Pop Up in the Bluff emphasizes fun and economic growth
This Saturday, the public is back at Pop Up in the Bluff. Family fun begins at Barraque Street and Third Avenue at 11 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. There will be exhibits, arts and crafts, information stations, a variety of food trucks, approximately 45 vendors, as well as plenty of children’s activities and live music.
FEEDING A POP UP
Pop Up in the Bluff is the brainchild of Pine Bluff Downtown Development and is not a festival but “a strategic plan for the economic revitalization of downtown Pine Bluff and its major entrances,” said Joy Blankenship, director Executive of Downtown Development. “We are committed to creating high-quality places and building a stronger community through preservation-based economic development.”
The first Pop Up took place in 2017 in the Barraque Street area, followed by another the following year in the Second Avenue area.
In 2019, the group focused on Main Street near the Pine Bluff Public Library, which was under construction, and the Southeast Arkansas Arts and Science Center (ASC).
Covid-19 stopped them from holding a Pop Up event in 2020 and 2021, but Blankenship said she thinks people are ready to come out.
They were worried about recruiting vendors, but it turned out to be no hassle, and organizers expect 300 to 500 people to attend Saturday’s event, she said.
Along with food trucks and vendors, the Pine Bluff Art League will have an exhibit at 100 Main St., and The Avenue, a new downtown bar, will open for the day to give people a peek inside. , said Blankenship.
While Pop Up is about getting people downtown and enjoying the new vibe created by rehabilitation, Blankenship said, it’s about economic development.
The event also targets small family and pop businesses and vendors like Bath Candy LLC, which participated in three events, and to attract more brick-and-mortar stores and other businesses like Friendship Aspire Academy Arkansas which is under construction through Main from ASC.
Rachel Miller, Executive Director of the CSA, sees the region’s growth happening in real time.
“There are a lot of exciting new developments downtown, especially on Main Street,” Miller said.
The various activities organized by various organizations encourage the community and outside visitors to learn about progress, Miller said.
Organizations include Downtown Development, the Advertising and Promotions Commission (A&P), ASC, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and companies and entrepreneurs such as Uptown Salon and Will Jenkins.
“The magnitude of the changes is evident not only in the physical presence of the downtown core, but also in the growth of people attending and enjoying what they see and experience, spreading the word throughout the community and beyond” , Miller said.
Even the staff at the mayor’s office are enthusiastic about downtown.
“For the city, it’s nice to see people enjoying downtown,” said William Fells, special projects coordinator for Mayor Shirley Washington’s office. “The city has worked hard to revitalize the neighborhood and create a space where businesses can locate and fun activities can thrive.”
In the 1960s, Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff was bustling with activity, especially on Saturdays. Children had a choice of three movie theaters, teenagers came to see and be seen, while their parents shopped at JCPenney, Sears or other local outlets.
Kahn Jewelry often caught the eye of young couples in love, and there were at least two banks, including Simmons Bank, surviving today.
It was the same across America, downtown was alive and thriving, but within a few years the rise and glittering allure of malls and early big box stores would rob Main Street of its commerce. . Today, American malls suffer the same fate.
This is how Blankenship describes downtown life, its rise and fall.
But the city center is not dead; instead, many are enjoying a comeback, like Little Rock. With planning and hard work, Pine Bluff is about to do the same.
“People are looking for a slower pace,” which downtown businesses can offer, Blankenship said.
A MAJOR REHABILITATION IN THE CITY CENTER
Pine Bluff Downtown Development is a non-profit organization that raises money through grants and other funding sources. Their dues-paying members fund day-to-day operations, Blankenship said.
Some of their work includes the $30,000 Barraque Plaza Shade project, Saracen Landing at Saracen Lake, its playground and walking trail.
In 2021, they funded new landscaping and lighting for Third and Main Street Park and new landscaping for Barraque Garden and Barraque Plaza.
Perhaps their most notable work was Phase I of the Main Street Landscape Project which improved the streets from the Jefferson County Courthouse to Fourth Avenue. Works included widening sidewalks with bumps designed to accommodate vendor tables, lighting, trees and more.
Phase II begins this summer and will repeat the process from Fourth to Eighth Avenues, Blankenship said.
Main Street will be barricaded from Barraque Street to Third Avenue. Second and Third Avenues will be closed between Pine and State streets. Parking will be in the courthouse parking lots, the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center parking lot and on surrounding streets, according to the Downtown Development newsletter.
Vendors will line Main Street from Barraque Street to Third Avenue. Food trucks will be parked on Second and Third Avenues. Live music will take place at 3rd & Main Street Park in front of the Main Street Mural. Children’s activities will be next to the music at the corner of Third Avenue and Pine Street. Activities will include inflatables, face painting, a balloon man making animals and other objects. There will also be oversized checkers, cornhole throws and more.
Starting at noon, the free Beer Garden will open for those 21 and older, so bring ID. Individuals are limited to three beers or as long as the supply lasts, according to the bulletin.
Details: www.pinebluff-downtowndevelopment.com, Facebook @popupinthebluff or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/popupinpb/.