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What's new and coming soon to downtown North Little Rock

The Argenta Plaza, new apartments and more.

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THE MARINA AT ROCKWATER: As well as access to the Arkansas River, the view of Little Rock's skyline is an amenity for residents of Rockwater Village.
  • THE MARINA AT ROCKWATER: As well as access to the Arkansas River, the view of Little Rock's skyline is an amenity for residents of Rockwater Village.

Though the 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street will feature the four-story, 60,000-square-foot First Orion office, the three-story 600 Main building (as it is now called) and new apartments and a restaurant in the Power and Ice building, North Little Rock will keep its intimate, neighborly feel. The new construction, all on former city property, is rising around Argenta Plaza, which will transform what is now a block of asphalt into a snazzy urban gathering space. The plaza will feature jets of water from the surface that can switch off to accommodate seating for parties or gatherings for concerts. A wall of water will serve as a visual and sound backdrop. A 35-foot-by-35-foot screen above a stage will allow the projection of film, sports and cultural events. The homey touch: the "Front Porch," a ramada-style covered area on the west side of the plaza facing Main hung with porch swings and including other seating. The plaza will integrate the water features with lighting designed by the Renfro Design Group of New York, which worked on the American Museum of Natural History's Richard Gilder Center. Argenta was able to get such a hotshot firm, North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith said, because CEO Richard Renfro is an Arkansas native.

ARGENTA PLAZA SWINGERS: The Front Porch, with its tables, chairs and porch swings, will offer a rocking view of Main Street.
  • ARGENTA PLAZA SWINGERS: The Front Porch, with its tables, chairs and porch swings, will offer a rocking view of Main Street.

Smith said First Orion CEO Charles Morgan chose North Little Rock for his headquarters because of its appeal to today's younger work force that wants to live, work, dine out and be entertained in the same neighborhood. A roof terrace will accommodate gatherings; the ground floor will feature a cafe and perhaps a gym. Smith said he expects ground to be broken in May.

A couple of months after that, Smith hopes, ground will be broken on 600 Main, owned jointly by the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Taggart architectural firm and the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association. The first floor will be North Little Rock's visitor's center and storefront retail; the car dealers will occupy the second floor and Taggart, which is designing all three buildings around the plaza, will occupy the third floor of the building. (It is now located behind McCain Mall.)

POWER AND ICE: John Chandler's project on Argenta Plaza will kick off when he signs with a restaurant to anchor the apartment building.
  • POWER AND ICE: John Chandler's project on Argenta Plaza will kick off when he signs with a restaurant to anchor the apartment building.

The city hasn't completed a deal with John Chandler for the Power and Ice building, but Chandler and the city remain optimistic that once he gets his anchor tenant — a restaurant for the first floor — Power and Ice will heat up. The restaurant will be on the plaza: "Rednecks like us call it outdoor dining," Smith said. "Chandler calls it al fresco."

Chandler, whose redevelopment of properties on Main have been a crucial element in Argenta's revitalization, said the second and third floors of Power and Ice (so named because the city's electric company and ice house once occupied the site) will include 12 apartments. They'll be small studios — 600 to 700 square feet — with 12-foot ceilings and French balconies (meaning full-length windows that open behind a decorative rail) with a view of the plaza.

VIEWS OF ARGENTA PLAZA AND DEVELOPMENT: A view from the southeast corner; the water wall feature is in the middle.
  • VIEWS OF ARGENTA PLAZA AND DEVELOPMENT: A view from the southeast corner; the water wall feature is in the middle.

Before Power and Ice goes up, there are two places directly across Main for dining: In September 2017, Kiyen Kim opened the Asian fusion restaurant KamiKaito by Kiyen's at Sixth and Main streets, next to Mugs Cafe, which has been an Argenta favorite among the biking, art-walking and fresh-faced set since it opened in 2013.

Alan New, an architect with Taggart, moved to the 700 block of Main a year and a half ago, a building he and his wife, Diana, gutted and restored. The building had been abandoned for 15 years, was covered in graffiti and had no electricity, water or sewer. Why?

"Just a love of Argenta," New said. He'd been involved for years, working with Argenta godfather John Gaudin (who built Argenta Place, housing Cregeen's and condo space in 2008 and was crucial to starting the Innovation Hub) and other Argenta-boosting nonprofits, like the Argenta Community Theater.

"Downtown Argenta at night is one of the safest places you can be," New said.

That was echoed by Marc Krulic, the realty representative for Thrive Argenta: Thrive residences strive to be "clean, green and safe."

It was because of Argenta's happening downtown that ERC of Fort Smith chose to build the Thrive Argenta apartment complex there, at Magnolia and Fourth streets. The complex, which will eventually include six buildings, will open July 1 with 20 units, including one-bedroom apartments renting for $850 and up and two-bedroom apartments renting for $1,200 and up.

THRIVING: The apartments at Magnolia and Fourth streets, a project of ERC of Fort Smith similar to Thrive in Bentonville, will feature middle courtyards and be "clean, green and safe." - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • THRIVING: The apartments at Magnolia and Fourth streets, a project of ERC of Fort Smith similar to Thrive in Bentonville, will feature middle courtyards and be "clean, green and safe."

When finished out, Thrive will feature 165 units. Two 54-unit buildings will have interior courtyards, one featuring a fitness center and the other a stage, Krulic said. Like the hip Thrive apartments in Bentonville, Thrive Argenta will be a smoke-free "neighborhood" with structures "dedicated to sustainability, which works well with the vibe in Argenta," he said.

And as in Bentonville, where ERC built smack dab in the middle of that town's burgeoning cultural scene downtown, Argenta's Thrive residents will have close at hand the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub maker space across the street and, just blocks away, The Joint comedy club; the Argenta Community Theater; art galleries Greg Thompson Fine Art, Thea Foundation and in the Laman Library Argenta branch; craft breweries Diamond Bear, Flyway and Core; fine dining at Ristorante Capeo and the Riverfront Steakhouse; and more casual eateries and bars Crush, Cregeen's, Four Quarter, Skinny J's and Reno's Argenta Cafe, in addition to the aforementioned Mugs and KamiKaito by Kiyens. It's also near the Arkansas River Trail, the biking and hiking path that makes a loop connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The long-ignored riverbank is finally coming into its own with shoreside developments west of Main Street. Last year, Doug Meyer and Dave Bruning of Terraforma Developers' Smartway LLC announced they would develop 5.6 acres west of the Broadway Bridge as a $50 million hotel, apartments and boardwalk complex. While the Smartway project has not advanced, Meyer said, the idea is the same: Terraforma wants a "live, work and play" use for the property, with offices, multifamily residents and a hotel. "I think within the next three or four months we'll have a clear plan going forward," Meyer said.

West of Smartway, the Rockwater development by Lisa Ferrell and her husband, Jim Jackson, represents another $50 million investment in North Little Rock, Ferrell said.

The Rockwater Village development — two-story homes fronting the River Trail and the Rockwater Marina — has brought not only new dollars to the city, but new people: Ferrell said 70 percent of the owners of the homes in the village moved to North Little Rock from elsewhere.

THE PORCHES AT ROCKWATER: The two-story homes will be built around a courtyard.
  • THE PORCHES AT ROCKWATER: The two-story homes will be built around a courtyard.

Only six of the 33 lots in Rockwater Village remain unsold, so Ferrell is about to launch a new building phase: 25 to 30 homes north of Rockwater Boulevard, to be priced between $325,000 and $350,000.

Too, now that the infrastructure is in, construction should begin almost immediately on the Porches at Rockwater, also north of Rockwater Boulevard. This pocket neighborhood of 15 two-story, 1,700-square-foot homes will cluster around a common green with fire pits and sculpture. Six are already sold — all to families from outside North Little Rock — and a builder has committed to two spec homes, so eight houses will go up first. Sale prices will be $265,000 and up. Ferrell said. Wayne Hardy is the architect.

Still in the conceptual stage is the development of 3.5 acres bought by Ferrell and Moses Tucker Partners just south of the roundabout that joins the west end of Riverfront Drive and the entrance to Rockwater Boulevard. Ferrell said the development will be part of Rockwater Village and will include multifamily and commercial buildings.

Further west, on River Road, the Monde Group of architects and developers has purchased 41 acres from the city of North Little Rock to develop as the Esplanade, apartments and eventually other uses. "We've been exploring different design ideas," Monde founder and architect Blake Jackson said recently. The original concept — a high-rise "resort apartment" complex — has been ditched as not right for the property: "It was way outside what the Central Arkansas market could support," Jackson said. "So while we want to take elements from that design, for the first phase it will be something closer to what we've been doing in Maumelle."

That would be The Villa at River Pointe Drive, another riverside development that features 216 units and such luxe amenities as an "Aquaduct Parc," swimming pools with statuary, a giant chess board, street shuffleboards, cabanas with TVs and a clubhouse. Jackson is hoping to break ground on the third phase of that development in July, which will add 56 units.


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