Magnolia set out to solve a plumbing issue. It got The Square Park.
The city’s downtown square, featuring the blossoming trees that give the town its name, has always been an attraction to visitors. The Columbia County Courthouse lawn in the center of the square and the locally owned restaurants and boutiques that surround it have been a lure for shoppers who can stroll from one stop to the next.
The square has also been home to popular events like the Magnolia Blossom Festival, The Square Market, the Fall Festival, Southern Arkansas University’s Blue & Gold Day and Merrytime in Magnolia.
But all that foot traffic revealed a problem. Restrooms were in short supply and visitors were descending on the local merchants asking to use their facilities.
Clearly, public restrooms were not just a preference but a need.
Outdated plumbing, referred to as “ancient,” promised store owners the threat of unexpected repairs and contributed to the problem.
A pair of buildings were the key to the solution.
A dilapidated, long vacant building was purchased by Magnolia Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and another outdated building was donated by the family that was about to close up its local business there. These two buildings on the square occupied an area that was the only good place for new construction, but also the best.
The retail building had sagging bricks, sinking floors, leaky roofs and crumbling mortar. The vacant building had dirt floors, gaping holes in the roof and was literally beyond repair.
The owners were pleased to work with the city and play a key role in accomplishing its plans.
MEDC, the mayor, the city inspector and chamber of commerce director presented a layout of a 400-SF, six-stall restroom and began a public investment campaign that wildly surpassed expectations.
Private donor generosity led to the creation of The Square Park, a downtown oasis that offers more than the restroom facilities originally envisioned.
The plan overflowed the property to include a storage building for chamber events; the outdoor Albemarle Stage; five, 300-SF artificial turf “green spaces”