Downtown Little Rock Development Plan
The Downtown Little Rock Development Plan was the first concerted public-private effort to redevelop the downtown riverfront and East Markham Warehouse District (also known as "Old Town").
The 1982 plan was sponsored by city planning director Nathaniel Griffin and the design firm of Hodges, Vines, Fox, and Associates. The plan's architects, especially Jimmy Moses, imagined pedestrian traffic anchored by mixed-use development offering opportunities for recreation, sightseeing, and entertainment. City officials, planners, business leaders, and Metrocentre officials hoped the plan would stimulate the development of Riverfront Park along the Arkansas River, the refurbishment of Kempner Opera House, the Pulaski County Courthouse, Little Rock City Hall, and the Old State House, and provide enhancements to the Statehouse Convention Center and its plaza. These improvements would tie together the riverfront and Metrocentre in the central business district, which had become isolated over time by vacant lots, neglect, and outright abandonment of buildings.
The plan also revisited traffic in the downtown, advocating a comprehensive and efficient one-way street system, a revision in the hierarchy of streets and expressways, two parking ramps, parking meters, relocated and improved mass transit stops, and a shuttle bus system. In the Warehouse District, the plan called for residential zoning in most areas anchored by mixed- and adaptive-use improvement of "important structures," pedestrian pathways between the Arkansas River, the Tenenbaum Building, and an expanded Arkansas Territorial Restoration museum, and public parking under the Interstate 30 ramp. The plan also called for a downtown farmer's market.
In the report Moses recommended a central market facility, new restaurants and bars, and a renewed emphasis on retailing. He called for a co-development process. Rather than city assumption and assembly of parcels of land in revitalizing activities, and then calling in the developers, Moses advocated making developers part of the game from the point of feasibility analysis through financing and construction and marketing. Moses also advocated new and renewed partnerships between the Little Rock City Board of Directors, the Little Rock Parking Authority, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission, the Little Rock Bureau for Visitors and Conventions, the Little Rock Housing Authority, the Little Rock City Beautiful Committee, Central Arkansas Transit, the Metrocentre Improvement District, Quapaw Quarter Association, Commemorative Commission, Central Arkansas Transit, Downtown Development Office, and Little Rock Downtown Partnership.
The historic River Market District flourishes along East Markham (now President Clinton) Avenue today, but its link to Metrocentre and Main Street remains tenuous. Three of the first four blocks encountered on Main Street at its intersection with Markham Avenue are parking lots.
- Linda Caillouet, "Retailers' Flight Left Void That Put Street in Decline," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 14, 2000.
- Hodges, Vines, Fox & Associates, Downtown Little Rock Development Plan, Vol. 2: Land Use Plan (Little Rock, AR: Hodges, Vines, Fox & Associates, January 1982).
- Hodges, Vines, Fox & Associates, Downtown Little Rock Development Plan, Vol. 3: Implementation Strategy (Little Rock, AR: Hodges Dean Lowe McGetrick & Moses, August 1982).