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STEPHEN HEMELT — Bold Nederland archway clearly announces community’s “Welkom”

Reagan Meaux said the business development taking place in Nederland is impressive.

He notes that the city is not blessed with the advantages of large industry like some neighbors due to Nederland’s landlocked status.

“You have to focus on what you can, and retail is part of that,” the longtime Nederland Economic Development Corporation board member told me last week.

“We’ve made the city more attractive, helping with facelifts on existing businesses. With more smaller businesses coming back into play these days as opposed to malls and whatnot, it’s been very successful. We’re very fortunate and really appreciate for our business owners coming to Nederland.”

Meaux was sharing his thoughts during a larger discussion about the public announcement of the EDC’s latest venture — the Gateway Arch to Nederland, which will soon span Boston Avenue near 20 feet high at its center.

“The Boston Avenue area is our retail avenue street downtown, and this creates an entryway that is an awe-inspiring thing to see when you turn the corner,” Meaux said. “Welkom is spelled the Dutch way for the heritage of our city. It’s inviting, and it brings people into the retail area of our downtown.”

According to EDC board members, the archway design process went smoothly as a natural answer to the question of what could be done to make things more attractive to customers and community members.

The archway’s concrete bases anchor 8 feet below ground and include brick, medal and concrete aspects to withstand winds of up to 150 mph. It will locate near Boston Avenue’s intersection with Twin City Highway just west of Cropo’s Barber Shop and cross the street to between Lee Michael and Cuttin Corners.

EDC Board President Brian Swindel said Nederland’s heritage is highlighted with the appropriately spelled “Welkom” that appears on both sides.

“It makes you ask the question, ‘why is it spelled that way?’” Swindel says. “It creates some conversation on the history of Nederland and how it all got started.”

The link to history is clearly important for officials who noted generations of Nederland’s founding families still live within the city.

The proposed design includes tulips, which is the traditional flower in the Netherlands. The windmill also links history, which is clearly a focal point future travelers will notice when coming down Boston Avenue.

Construction will cause the elimination of one non-handicapped parking spot and is slated to cost $179,200. The project must still receive final City Council approval, with a vote scheduled Monday (Dec. 14). Should change orders exceed $10,000, additional City Council approval would be needed.

Once begun, construction is expected to take 60 days, and EDC leaders want to get started next month.

LED lighting includes lamps on the east-facing side of the pillars and dome-shaped lights on top of the pillars to match a previous EDC effort.

Red brick comes from Acme Brick, and construction materials include black medal at the top and bottom of the pillars.

The height at the center of the arch is 17 feet, 2 inches, providing clearance for fire trucks and other vehicles.

Two murals will be added to the westward facing sides of the pillars and each will be tied to Nederland, with hopes of creating destinations for community members and shoppers to stop for pictures.

The archway’s edition to Boston Avenue will surely create a bold talking point that can’t be missed for a community aggressively seeking to increase its status as a shopping and business development destination.

Stephen Hemelt is president of Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.