Courthouse Square improvements set to begin

TEXARKANA — The grounds and streets around the downtown federal courthouse and post office are about to get a $950,000 makeover.

Work on the bi-city Courthouse Square Connections project is set to begin later this month with the aim of beautifying one of Texarkana’s most popular spots, as well as improving safety for drivers and pedestrians.

The project will expand existing sidewalks and add crosswalks, improve vehicle safety by closing the building’s Fifth Street entrance, and preserve history by restoring portions of the original brick streets around the building.

There will also be a new tourist information kiosk, public art, expanded green space and an area for food truck vendors.

Work on the project will begin in late August and is expected to be completed by March 2021.

“The new look will help to attract more businesses and residents and will encourage tourists and citizens to spend time walking, shopping and enjoying restaurants in the area,” Arkansas-side Manager Kenny Haskin said in a statement. “Updating the area around this historic building to make it more attractive just made sense, and Texarkana, Arkansas, is proud to join our sister city and others to make it possible!”

Ina McDowell, executive director of downtown preservation advocacy group Main Street Texarkana, echoed the enthusiasm.

“We are excited to see improvements to the ‘front door’ into our historic downtown,” she said.

Built in 1931 centered on North State Line Avenue, the courthouse is the only U.S. federal building that stands in more than one state. It is said to be the second-most photographed courthouse in the nation, after the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

Tourists often visit a spot in front of the courthouse featuring an iconic red, white and blue sign marking the Arkansas-Texas state line, many posing for photos with one foot in either state.

The Texas-side City Council on Monday approved an interlocal agreement regarding the project. The city of Texarkana, Arkansas, had previously signed onto the agreement.

The Texas side will pick up most of the cost, more than $742,000, through capital improvement bonds, and the Arkansas side is contributing more than $215,000 as in-kind labor. The Arkansas-side Advertising and Promotion Commission and a National Endowment for the Arts grant also contributed funds.

Project partners include the Texarkana USA Chamber of Commerce, the Texarkana Arts and Historic District and the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club. A team of local residents has been involved with the project’s planning as part of activity with civic group Leadership Texarkana.

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