- Brian Chilson
- REOPENED, AND GRAND: The Robinson Center Performance Hall now seats 2,214 people and has two balcony levels.
The New Broadway BridgeIn March, the downtown commuter nightmare will be over. The new $98.4 million Broadway Bridge will open to traffic, though there will still be finishing touches to do. The four-lane, double-arch bridge replaces the 1921 structure, which was closed to traffic last September, thus diverting all downtown river-crossing traffic to either the Main Street Bridge or Interstate 30. The old bridge didn't go quietly — or rather, it quietly stood despite the first attempts to bring it down with dynamite in October. There was a boom, and then nothing. Finally, barges pulled the obstinate concrete construction down.
The new bridge, which is expected to stand for 75 years, has wider lanes (12 feet) than the old bridge; each arch is 446 feet long and 88 feet wide. Danny Straessle, spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said there will be an "impromptu ribbon-cutting" when contractor Massman Construction Co. says it's ready to open. Finishing touches will include an exit ramp to state Highway 10 and bike/pedestrian ramps. There will be a commissioning ceremony April 6.
- Brian Chilson
Orbea and The Works
700 W. Broadway, North Little Rock
Spearheaded by husband-and-wife developers Jim Jackson and Lisa Ferrell, The Works at Rockwater has transformed a former grungy automotive spring supply warehouse just west of Dickey-Stephens Park into a sleek and modern office and commercial space. The 36,000- square-foot building now houses the U.S. headquarters of Orbea, the high-end Spanish bicycle company, whose HQ had previously been located on Main Street in Little Rock. Though the walk-in showroom and coffee shop from Orbea's Main Street digs — a collaboration with local bike seller Spokes — has been nixed at the new location, the larger space has allowed the company to relocate all of its operations under one roof, including a cavernous warehouse for new, boxed bikes shipped from East and West Coast warehouses. Other parts of The Works at Rockwater development are being fitted out as offices for Jackson's law firm, Rockwater Real Estate and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Arkansas. Final cost of the project, including the initial purchase of the building, will be in the neighborhood of $2 million. Ferrell said The Works will serve as a bridge between Argenta and her company's residential development Rockwater Village, further west on the riverfront. "We saw that as a strategic property to join Rockwater with the excitement of the Broadway Bridge, the project going at Smarthouse Way and just all the fabulous stuff that the city is doing downtown," she said. "It's a way for that whole corridor to become spectacular."
A cottage in North Carolina like the one shown above and others are the inspiration for the look of The Porches at Rockwater, a new pocket neighborhood to be built off Rockwater Boulevard in North Little Rock. The development, which will break ground in April, joins the Rockwater Marina, the Riverside at Rockwater apartments and Rockwater Village, projects by Lisa Ferrell and James Jackson of North Bluffs Development Corp. Ferrell likens the Porches to Bentonville's new Black Apple pocket neighborhood, with two differences: The nine homes will be built in a traditional craftsman style with porches, rather than Black Apple's more contemporary look, and they'll be less expensive, starting in the $250,000 range. Each home will have three bedrooms and two baths. Ferrell said the "boutique homes" will be "nestled around a common garden." She said the design follows an older neighborhood style of larger houses on high ground — Rockwater Village, a group of waterfront homes — surrounded by smaller houses and retail. Ferrell estimates the investment at $2.5 million.
- Brian Chilson
426 W. Markham St.
For downtown residents, patrons of the arts and maybe especially for Arkansas Symphony Orchestra musicians, it was a long wait until Nov. 10, 2016. The grand reopening of Robinson Center marked the end of the so-called "Second Act" renovation to the historic structure at the corner of Broadway and Markham streets. The hall was finally opened to the public — the same public that had voted to fund the project with a portion of the city's 2 percent hospitality tax, and whom the ASO thanked by giving away an entire evening's worth of tickets for a special "Thank You, Little Rock" concert. Implementing the vision of designers at New York City's Ennead Architects and Little Rock's Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, construction crews at CDI/Hunt Joint Venture dropped the old stage a whopping 36 feet, creating a cavernous performance hall with a mechanical lift for the orchestra pit and two stage-level truck bays. The hall now seats 2,214 people, and includes two tiers of box seats. Under the direction of acousticians at Jaffe Holden, adjustable acoustic draping was installed, networked with stage lights and catwalks that allow the hall to help bring in the kind of grand-spectacle, highly technical shows that would have been impossible in the old Robinson — Disney's "The Lion King," for one, slated to grace the stage in the Robinson Performance Hall in the spring of 2018.