The Chamber Voice of Business Newsletter recently had an opportunity to visit with staff at CEI Engineering Associates, Inc. (CEI) about their Downtown Rogers revitalization project work in progress. The following questions and answers provide some interesting insights into the improvement plans.
Q: Downtown Rogers improvement plans have been a topic of discussion lately for the community. With the onset of COVID, how is this impacting the progress of the projects?
A: So that we’re on the same page – “Downtown” includes: Mobility hub (Caboose) 1st Street improvements, Railyard Park, Cherry Street improvements (water, parking, new street) and Arkansas Street – not started construction yet but about to.
One of the biggest concerns before the projects started was how we were going to lessen the impact on businesses trying to operate during construction. It was determined that the best way for CEI to serve Rogers during this time was to accelerate the projects. The City has gone to extra efforts creating strict guidelines addressing additional measures required to protect the safety of the construction crews and citizens, but also has encouraged collaborative input on how to meet the goals of the projects without impacting the safety of residents or workers.
In an effort to take advantage of less foot traffic, we expedited the design schedule – we gained a month or two. This gave a bigger window to the construction crews. Currently, we are running about 30 days ahead of schedule.
Q: When designing to enhance the Downtown environment, what elements are important to CEI?
A: It is critical to understand the intent of the revitalization: What results are the City and the citizens looking for that will demonstrate success to their community? How do you shape a community’s future while respecting its history and traditions?
For Rogers, the answer looked a lot like this...By making Downtown Rogers a destination it will strengthen the core of the downtown, create opportunities to enhance community interaction, create energy and civic pride, drive economic activity, support safe accessible multi-modal access to downtown, and develop the necessary infrastructure needed to allow the entire city to grow.
Starting with the anchors of this area, we set out to highlight the interesting characteristics of each destination and then focused on creating opportunities for community connections within each site and to each other. It makes the Farmer’s Market a destination. It makes Railyard Park a destination. By successfully bringing them together, it makes Downtown Rogers a destination whether they travel by car, foot, or by bicycle.
Our work makes it easier to recognize and promote Downtown Rogers, builds community pride, eases access concerns, addresses traffic, parking, pedestrian safety and includes the opportunity to create or enhance flexible outdoor community venues. Our design goal is to enhance people’s sense of comfort, visibility, relaxation, all those things that make a park a destination and Downtown Rogers businesses thrive.
Q: Have you unearthed anything interesting during your projects downtown?
A: Sometimes our projects can be a bit of a treasure hunt. Our most recent surprise was the discovery of an old coal chute used to offload coal from wagons to be transferred by the shovel into the chute leading to the basements of the downtown buildings. These businesses used the coal in their basement boilers to heat their buildings. We ran into stuff like that – 1800’s technology.
This is where our technical experience really comes in. This allows us to save and respect what can be preserved without interfering with the necessary modernization to keep us all moving forward.
Q: What are some recent projects you have completed in Northwest Arkansas that you’re proud of? What would our readers be surprised to know about CEI?
A: We are very diverse in our areas of specialties.
We deliver public work projects to most communities in our area spanning: street and infrastructure, master planning for communities and commercial campuses, XNA parking facility, sports facility design for Rogers Public Schools, Bentonville Square Revitalization, Bella Vista Municipal Buildings, Parks and Trails (more than 100 miles locally).
In addition, we were the original civil engineer and continue with ongoing development projects on the 300 acres encompassing the Promenade, World Trade Center with retail and restaurants, Walmart projects of all types, and an incredibly active local development commercial group. All told we have completed thousands of projects throughout the region, with more than 25,000 projects delivered across the United States.
Find out more about CEI at www.ceieng.com or call (479) 273-9472.