by Max Brantley
MAIN STREET MEMORIES: On this clearing once stood a Woolworth, the legendary D&D Cafe, Kempner's, etc.
Mayor Mark Stodola has announced a three-day program this week to develop a "strategy" for the Main Street corridor. Sessions are open to the public (details on jump).
You go, mayor. I hope some key players are in the room and participating fully. Such as:
Financial titan Warren Stephens, owner of that big chunk of Main Street property just cleared of historic buildings. The owner of the decaying Donaghey Building, one of the city's first "skyscrapers"? The state of Arkansas, whose strategy to date has been to hermetically seal employees above ground and in parking decks so that they need not touch feet to LR soil in between commutes from suburbs to the urban core and home again. The owner of the long-troubled Block 2 project at the foot of Main.
Without meaningful participation from key property owners (meaningful meaning, generally, money as well as ideas), you can just reserve a spot on the shelf of forgotten "strategy" reports right now.
SPEAKING OF DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT: A similar, longer-term project has long been underway in North Little Rock and they have some good ideas to show for it.
CITY NEWS RELEASE
(Little Rock, AR – August 24, 2009) -- A team of nationally renowned city design experts will be in Little Rock this week to participate in a three-day project to develop a comprehensive strategy for Little Rock’s once-thriving Main Street corridor.
The project is part of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD), which is a joint effort by the American Architectural Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The MICD has conducted projects throughout the United States by collaborating with mayors, community leaders and property owners to develop strategies that would produce the highest and best use for properties in underachieving areas.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola proposed that the group study Little Rock’s Main Street corridor, comprising property on the east and west side of Main Street from Markham Street to Interstate 630. Stodola met with the group in 2007 for a brief study of the area and believes three full days of hands-on work reviewing the area will produce a good plan for the future.
“The potential of this project is tremendous,” Stodola said. “This type of collaborative effort is exactly what we need for Main Street to regain the economic vitality and cultural significance of its past. Little Rock can not afford for Main Street to languish and that is why I pushed for this study.”
The three-day work session will include two sessions at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce that are open to the public. The first public session will be at 6 p.m. Thursday and will feature remarks by the MICD resource team followed by a reception for those attending. The second public session will be at 3 p.m. Friday and will include the final presentation of the strategic plan formulated during the three-day event.
The MICD resource team includes the following:
William. A. Gilchrist – An urban designer and architect, Gilchrist’s resume includes assisting the City of New Orleans with recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina and consulting in Ukraine and Romania to help cities in those young democracies understand the nexus of local government, design, and development.
Cinda Gilliland – An artist and landscape architect, Gilliland’s work includes projects on academic and corporate campuses to community parks and urban centers.
Betsy Jackson – An urban planner, Jackson has worked in the field of downtown revitalization and management for 25 years and is president of The Urban Agenda, an urban development consulting firm.
Maurice Cox – Director of Design for the National Endowment for the Arts, Cox is a professor of architecture at the University of Virginia and is a former mayor of Charlottesville, VA.