Young, Curry and Stodola dig in.
Mayor Mark Stodola and partners in the new streetscape between Third and Sixth streets on Main Street planted the last plants to go in new landscaping and declared the $1.9 million project just a beginning on Main. Stodola was beaming at the completion of the project he dubbed the "Creative Corridor," which narrowed the street, added bioswales to absorb polluting runoff from cars, and extended the sidewalks to make it, as architect Steve Luoni said, a place to be, not just a thoroughfare.
The project was paid for with $1 million from the city and $900,000 in grants from the state Natural Resources Commission and the EPA. Other grants have been awarded to the street as well. Stodola said the investment had generated $100 million in the area.
Luoni, director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, which created a design for the corridor, called the plan an "unreasonable" project that had succeeded precisely because of that; he even quoted George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him ... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself ... All progress depends on the unreasonable man."
The ceremony began in the theater at The Rep and moved to the corner of Sixth and Main, where Stodola, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission director Randy Young and Region 6 EPA administrator Ron Curry were handed shovels — not golden but real — and started digging.
Luoni said the Downtown Partnership [Gabe Holmstrom of the Downtown Partnership says I misheard this and that Luoni said Metroplan, which would make more sense] will see to it that light rail runs down Main Street one day, which everyone knows will never happen but which would be nice someday somewhere. The hullabaloo over three blocks might seem a little overblown — especially given the legal dispute developer Scott Reed has found himself in with the contractor for the buildings in the 500 block and the Chi family's stall on the Aloft Hotel in the Boyle Building. (But the Chis are reportedly about to buy the adjacent MM Cohn Building that houses the Symphony rehearsal space, so the hotel project apparently isn't dead yet.) Only Cranford & Co. and The Rep are actually occupying their spaces in the 500 block; Ballet Arkansas isn't quite there yet, and none of the apartment lofts on the upper floors of the buildings lining the block are built out.
Yet, the street is beautiful, the new symphony rehearsal space looks grand, Matt McLeod's gallery that faces Sixth Street and the inner hallway will be gorgeous showplaces for art. The CJRW redo of the Fulk Building at Third and Main is handsome and the new construction across the street housing M3 Productions (once Jones Film) is grand and sleek. The Mann on Main office building, the Mann Lofts, Samantha's Tap Room and Bruno's Little Italy are wonderful additions to the block between Third and Fourth. When all is said and done the corridor will be a lively destination. The 500 block of Main project was begun in 2012. Let's hope it's not another three years before it's completed. We've given up on Reed's K Lofts across from the Mann Building.