by Max Brantley
I don't want to be a grump. I hope this works. But you can plan and you can strategize and you can have charettes and you can have workshops. But until somebody — taxpayers or private interests (particularly those who own the most of the land along the corridor) — are willing to cough up cash, well ... And first you have to hope some people will want to live there.
It's a hard issue. I think downtown could be a great place again. The River Market neighborhood is proof of the potential. It should be a great place again. Gas prices should go higher if we start swearing off oil . Living close in to big job hives would make sense. A lively neighborhood with mass transit, entertainment and retail in easy reach is an attractive thing. My kids live in New York city and it's exciting to walk home from the bus stop to their homes each night (and I don't mean that in a scary exciting way). But ...
No more buts. Here's the city news release.
Mayor Mark Stodola announced today that the City of Little Rock will receive technical assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency to continue its progress toward revitalizing the city’s Main Street corridor. The EPA award, called Greening America’s Capitals, will enable urban planners and landscape architects to visit Little Rock and create streetscapes that will help the City continue to restore Main Street as a cultural and economic center. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced that Little Rock was one of five cities selected out of 38 that applied to the EPA for this program.
Main Street is part of the City’s focus on downtown redevelopment, which began with the transformation of the River Market District. Once full of abandoned buildings, the River Market District is now home to a mix of local businesses, museums, galleries, restaurants, residential units, farmers market and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Main Street is well-situated near the River Market District to take advantage of nearby development and regain its former life as a cultural and economic hub of the city.
This fall and winter, the Greening America’s Capitals design team will assist Little Rock with streetscape improvements that will help catalyze the redevelopment potential of the Main Street corridor. Focusing on key activity centers along the corridor, the redesign will highlight the impact that new pocket parks and reuse of vacant parking lots could have on encouraging future redevelopment. The work will also include ways to increase pedestrian activity, support ground floor retail and to develop a future trolley line.
Through this grant, the City will build on work begun through the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, which engaged the public and identified key assets and challenges to address in the Main Street area. The Mayors’ Institute on City Design is a joint leadership initiative between the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors.