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Architects putting in two bits on 'Financial Quarter'

Designs on downtown.

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The architecture and design collaborative StudioMAIN is meeting with interested developers and business people to think about branding a 30-block area they're calling the "Financial Quarter." The boundaries (not written in stone) would be Broadway and Main on the west and east and the Arkansas River and Sixth Street on the north and south. The idea of the rebranding is to rejuvenate Capitol Avenue and points north, and StudioMain said it hopes the community will engage to create "solutions for the most basic of spaces to the most engaging of spaces: We believe that innovative design will draw people back into the financial heart of our City."

Chief among the ideas was to brand and re-energize the street by, for example, transforming the "mausoleum" (the apt description by Moses Tucker developer Rett Tucker) bank lobbies — such as the vast and empty lobby of Bank of America — with retail entered from the street; liven the cold-looking plazas in front of the banks with such things as pop-up eateries or stores; and paint the crosswalks — or even the streets — in a color that would signal to pedestrians that they were in the Financial Quarter. Also: outdoor dining, a park, special events — maybe even a Riverfest extension. All with an eye to giving the same vibrant feel to Capitol that exists in the River Market district today. 

The idea is an extension of StudioMAIN's "gateway" design contest a few years ago to make Capitol Avenue a major entrance to the city from Interstate 30, taking advantage of its view of the state Capitol.

At a meeting last week, Jimmy Moses noted that the now-lively River Market area was once desolate, offering less to work with than Capitol and surrounding streets. He said the River Market itself, a public investment, was key to the redevelopment of the area, and wondered what sort of dynamo the city could add to Capitol. He added that he thought Third Street from Main to Broadway — which is lined by parking lots — was also sorely in need of transformation.  The group will talk to law firms and major businesses, like Stephens Inc., to get input in coming weeks. 

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