There has been discussion in recent days regarding the fate of the First Presbyterian Church property located at 210 Atlanta Street in downtown Gravette. It is an aging property used on a limited basis by a very small local Presbyterian contingency. Recently there was an informal meeting held at the property attended by myself, several other community leaders, a representative from the Presbyterian Church Corporation (the legal owner of the property) and the remaining local parishioners. The Presbyterian Corporation representative made it clear that the Corporation would not be able to commit further resources to the facility but was more than happy to carry back the general community’s call to action for the sake of preservation of this historically significant property. The overwhelming consensus of this group was one of strong support for preservation in some way.
The representative took that message back to the Presbyterian Corporation at large and I received notice within the last several days that they are very open to making the donation and are awaiting word from the Gravette community on the specific terms for which the legal transfer of ownership of the property can take place. The prevailing idea at that meeting was that the City of Gravette would be the recipient of this generous donation.
Yesterday I received a matching pledge from the The Foundation For The Preservation Of Gravette History, Inc. of $5,000 that would help seed a newly created Fund for this project, should the Presbytery of Arkansas vote to transfer the property to the City of Gravette. I have also been given strong indication that additional private donations would follow.
Although I hate to see the end of a storied chapter for this Presbyterian congregation, this is an opportunity for not only for a cornerstone downtown property to be preserved, but for the timeliness of this transfer to represent our community’s renewed desire to focus on the revitalization of our Main Street District. Historical preservation benefits aside, I truly believe the facility can offer a value added benefit to the citizens of Gravette. Much in the same way our current public facilities offer a variety of amenities to our citizens for a wide array of activities, this highly visible property with its inherent sentimental appeal would make for a very nice addition to what we currently offer.
With an agreement to accept such a donation comes the responsibility of ownership. Immediate measures will be necessary for the sake of insuring the integrity of the structure and protecting its contents. It is expected that these costs will be relatively low and manageable. Plans should begin for the sake of enlisting additional community support and grant dollars to help endow the property’s long term improvement and preservation. While some General City Funds may be necessary to supplement the The Foundation For The Preservation Of Gravette History’s initial commitment, my preference would be to see this property become self-sufficient within just a few years – or even less. Several options have been suggested that could lead to it becoming self-sustaining, all of which should remain on the table for discussion as we move forward. One suggestion has been to create a rental fee structure with rates tailored to local non-profit and general daily use.
As it is the desire of the donor to see the property preserved for historical purposes, and seeing that its significance is inherently associated with public gatherings and services, it would be our responsibility as the recipient of this donation to adhere as closely as possible to the preservation of many aspects of its historically relevant orientation, imagery, etc., without attributing our efforts to religious affiliation. The donor should also be ensured that there is a mechanism in place by which the few remaining parishioners would have access to the facility. Scheduling can easily provide this group with the access they require.
At a regular meeting scheduled for October 22, I will ask the Gravette City Council to pledge their support for this effort by means of a Resolution in favor of receiving this donation and for the creation of a Fund for the operation and maintenance of this “Cornerstone Community Building”. I welcome your ideas and suggestions and hope you will also feel free to share your thoughts with the City Council and other city leaders ahead of this decision.
Mayor Kurt Maddox
Other Contact Info:
Recorder/Treasurer Mike von Ree
City Attorney David Bailey
City Council Members: