James Alfred "Jimmy" Moses (born September 11, 1949) is founder of Moses Tucker Real Estate and a prominent Little Rock-area commercial developer and urban planner. Moses started the company which bears his name in 1984. His partner in the firm is Rett Tucker. Moses conceived the idea of a Little Rock River Market in the 1980s following a visit to the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.
- 1 Early Life and Education
- 2 Little Rock Unlimited Progress
- 3 AMR Architects
- 4 Little Rock Downtown Partnership
- 5 Metroplan's 1995 Portland Trip
- 6 River Project
- 7 Making the River Market District
- 8 Clinton Library
- 9 Stitching Together a Community
- 10 Lofts and Condominium Development
- 11 Nonprofit Corridor
- 12 Framework for the Future
- 13 Recognition and Awards
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Early Life and Education
Moses hails from a pioneer Little Rock Jewish family. He attended Jefferson Elementary in the 1950s and graduated from Hall High School. In high school Moses worked at the family business, Moses Melody Shop, a music and electronics store located on Main Street in downtown Little Rock. Moses Melody Shop had been established by his grandfather Alfred Moses, but had by the 1960s passed into the hands of his father James Moses Sr. "As kids growing up in Little Rock some of my fondest memories are of [business associate] Wally [Allen] and I both working downtown on Main Street," remembered Moses. "We'd go eat lunch together. And one of our favorite things to do as kids was take the bus downtown. There used to be this great barbecue place called Tom and Andrew's. At 15 or 16, we'd always order a beer with our barbecue, but they'd never give us one. That was kind of the way we functioned back then. I think that even as kids, both of us working and hanging out on Main Street in downtown Little Rock had some lasting impact on both of us wanting to see great things happen for the city[.]"
After high school, Moses attended the then-all male Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Returning to Little Rock and Moses Melody Shop in 1971, Moses dedicated his spare time to a local association of downtown boosters and civic organizers known as Little Rock Unlimited Progress. Little Rock Unlimited Progress had been formed into 1970 to revive the prospects of downtown retailers. The group inherited the spirit of two prior failed downtown revitalization campaigns known as Main Street 1969 plan, established in 1957, and the 1960s Capitol Place plan. Moses had followed the Capitol Place plan closely in high school. Capitol Place involved an underground plaza and parking ramp at the corner of Main Street and Capitol Avenue. Remembered Moses later, "I was fascinated. I lived and died that." The plan never materialized.
Little Rock Unlimited Progress
While serving as executive director of Little Rock Unlimited Progress after college, Moses dreamed of a fashionable pedestrian mall along Main Street that would bring energy and dollars to a downtown deflated by snarled parking and flight to the western suburbs. But he quickly tired of the day-to-day operations of his father's store. In November 1975 Moses remembers a conversation with his father in which he admitted: "Dad, I'm kind of sick of this." James Sr. was also becoming weary of his store duties and sold Moses Melody Shop that same month. In March 1976 Moses packed his wife B.J., the kids, and a dog into the family Volvo station wagon to study urban and regional planning at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He later remembered thinking: "I was never coming back. I was pretty burned out on Little Rock. Downtown was clearly on a slide. The leadership was very thin. We didn't seem to have much vigor in making it a great place. And I was tormented by the fact that I couldn't make more of an impact."
Moses would later say that the decision to leave Little Rock marked a major "turning point" in his life, but he also quickly realized how much his hometown meant to him. "After four to six weeks, I realized something was missing. It was the Arkansas Gazette. So I called and said, 'Send it to me.' It was like an umbilical cord. I saw my roots were so deep and I was really passionate about Little Rock."
Moses continued to sell his idea of a Little Rock pedestrian mall as an engine of revitalization in his master's thesis completed in 1978 and entitled "Assessing the Impact of Central Business District Redevelopment Organizations on Downtown: A Case Study of Little Rock Unlimited Progress, Inc." That same year his idea for a pedestrian mall along Main Street was coming to fruition with the opening of the Metrocentre Mall. The Metrocentre Mall project involved closing Main Street between Third and Seventh streets and Capitol Avenue from Scott to Louisiana streets. Beginning in March 1977 construction crews laid bricks on the pavement, planted willow oaks and crape myrtles, and constructed a large fountain at the corner of Third and Main at a cost of $4.5 million dollars. The project was paid for by local property owners organized into what was known as the Metrocentre Improvement District No. 1.
Moses was lured back to Little Rock in 1978 by a job offer tendered by developer Tommy Hodges of Hodges, Vines, Fox, and Associates. Hodges assigned Moses the task of preparing urban plans for the revitalization of small Main Street communities like Crossett, Harrison, and Magnolia. These reports generally had no direct impact on the cities. But in 1981 he completed a report on his hometown called the "Downtown Little Rock Development Plan" in which he detailed several ways to bring back "a certain charm and character unique to the downtown." In the report he recommended a central market facility, new restaurants and bars, and a renewed emphasis on retailing.
On Tuesday evenings during the years he worked for Hodges Moses would get together over drinks with two architect friends John Allison and Rick Redden. "I guess there was sort of an attachment," remembered Redden of the informal group. "We were so naive. We were young. We thought about anything could happen." Invariably the discussions turned in the direction of forming a new company specializing in urban design and development. Remembered Moses later, "About the 11th or 12th month, one of us said, 'Drinking this Scotch is good, but we're going to turn into alcoholics. Maybe we better start a business or stop meeting like this.'"
In 1982 the group agreed to form AMR Architects. Allison, Moses, and Redden envisioned a different kind of firm, one devoted to refurbishing existing building stock in the neglected downtown and managing these assets themselves. They also dreamed of a central farmer's market that would form the centerpiece of a new arts and entertainment district. Allison and Redden took on the primary roles of architects in the firm, and Moses accepted the duties related to promoting, leasing, and managing the projects as they developed.
The first project the new team tackled was the old Gans Building located at 217 West Second Street, which the three principals also used as their first office. The next project involved the rejuvenation of two buildings on East Markham Street into the Heritage Center East and West. Their plan involved renovation of two buildings and demolition of a building in between to create adjacent parking. The Department of Arkansas Heritage became the main tenant in Heritage Center East, and AMR Architects took over a top floor, sharing it with an apartment for Redden's family.
The group became successful enough to form a subsidiary company called AMR Real Estate. AMR Real Estate, focusing on development deals and property management in the western suburbs, built up the group's fortune rapidly. In 1984 Moses left AMR to focus on this part of the business, forming a partnership with Jim Nosari called Moses-Nosari Real Estate. Redden continued to retain the AMR Architects namesake.
Little Rock Downtown Partnership
Development in West Little Rock became Jimmy Moses' bread-and-butter, but his sympathies remained attached to the central core. By 1984 Little Rock Unlimited Progress had evolved into the nonprofit Little Rock Downtown Partnership. Business and government leaders representing the new coalition began looking for development projects that could restart economic activity along neglected business corridors. Moses served as president of the group and Sharon Priest as its executive director.
In 1987 the Metrocentre Improvement District, which would later merge administratively with the Partnership, launched a new economic revitalization project named Main Street Market under the direction of a company called Main Street Ventures. Main Street Market merged five buildings located between Capitol Avenue and Sixth Street to create a $12 million mixed use multilevel indoor shopping center, office complex, art gallery walk, and restaurant hub. This project also foundered. No one considered rerouting one-way streets so that cars were led towards the facility instead of away. Architect Reese Rowland has since said that Main Street Market also failed because it had only two entrances that could not be directly accessed by pedestrians at street level.
Jimmy Moses took over management of the facility in 1990 just as Leader Federal Savings Bank of Memphis called in the original loan against the property. Moses offered the bank two possibility for resuscitating the Mall, turning it into an office and entertainment complex or turning it over as strictly office space. The bank chose to sell off the property as office space, cutting its losses. Today thirty state government agencies thrive on the dissected Main Street Market block.
By the late 1980s it was clear that Metrocentre Mall and the Main Street Market were not working. Developer John Flake of Flake and Company was the first to call, in 1986, for rehabilitating the street to accommodate cars again. Except for one block on Capitol from Main to Louisiana, all the streets were reopened to auto traffic in 1990 at a cost of more than $1.5 million dollars. Nine years later the block-long pedestrian mall on Capitol disappeared as well. Longtime Metrocentre executive director Sterling Cockrill Jr. noted that the plan failed as "newcomers constructed around the pedestrian mall but not on it. They didn't want to be where cars couldn't get to them."
As Metrocentre Mall began to decline the Downtown Partnership hatched a $100 million plan to replace Barton Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds with a downtown multi-use sports arena. Quipped Partnership executive vice president Jack Turner at the time, referring to the failed Main Street Market: "Sometimes you have to level things to get people's attention."
Moses became an active booster, with childhood friends Mark Grobmyer and Wally Allen, of the scheme which the nonprofit optimistically called Project 2000. Eventually the project coalesced around a comprehensive plan with the $42.1 million arena, dubbed the "Diamond Center," surrounded by an improved Riverfront Park, an expanded Statehouse Convention Center, a new main branch public library, museums, repaired streets and sidewalks, and better policing and rental property inspection. The idea was to achieve economic growth by attracting corporations and a modern workforce with more visible amenities, better city services, and other aesthetics and quality-of-life improvements. "What we're doing is talking about what it would take to elevate this city to another competitive level with other cities in the country," noted Moses. Grobmyer, a corporate attorney by trade, agreed. "For a great city, you have to have a vibrant economy, you have to have people employed," he noted. "You have to start there. Everything flows from economics. Then you get rising real estate values, the schools are financed by property taxes and so on." Allen, chair of the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission, estimated that Project 2000 would create 3,500 new entry-level jobs.
Moses, Grobmyer, and Allen tied a civil rights component to the plan by suggesting the building of a museum for ongoing study and reflection that would help restore the "self-image" of a city shattered in the 1957 Central High School desegregation crisis. Moses and Allen took their organization's pitch everywhere, to city government offices, to churches and clubs, and into the workrooms other nonprofits. They also worked hard to secure the support of African American residents of the city, a group often neglected in Little Rock's urban revitalization plans. "Wally and I used to trudge out for speeches on a cold Tuesday night to some civic club at the end of the county," Moses remembered. "It was one of those challenges you weren't always up for, and I would call Wally up and ask if he were ready to go again, and he always was. Knowing the odds were not in our favor, he was still there, side by side with me, willing to work hard till the end."
On October 8, 1991, the citizens of the city took to the polls and by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin rejected two half-cent local sales tax increases earmarked for capital improvements and city programs. Jim Lynch of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods was especially vocal in denouncing the tax increase, which he argued would hurt the lowest socioeconomic classes most. The project was also opposed by Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which wanted a different timetable for improvements to city infrastructure. Two years later the plan, rebranded as the Future-Little Rock Project, failed again. Future-Little Rock also recommended a downtown arena facility, but the funding mechanism was divided into two separate tax proposals. The first, a one-cent hike in the hotel and restaurant tax designated for doubling the square footage of the Statehouse Convention Center, failed on October 14, 1993. The second vote for a one-cent increase in the sales tax to finance the arena and public safety and emergency services failed two months later on December 14th.
After the defeat of both Diamond Center bids Moses and the Downtown Partnership refocused its energies on new plans developed by MRA International Inc. of Philadelphia and the Donaghey Project at UALR to create a zone in the heart of the city that would include niceties like upscale restaurants, boutiques, a farmer's market and marina, and a multipurpose arena. On May 20, 1994, the plan for an "American Commons and Festival Landing" was unveiled to the public. The accompanying report made several key recommendations, including the formation of a public-private development corporation to build an entertainment district bounded by the Arkansas River and Third Street to the north and south and I-30 and Broadway to the east and west. The proposed zone was called the "River District," which would encompass a downtown "campus" for conventions, conferences, festival events, and learning centers linked to the "information superhighway (the "American Commons" part), and a farmer's market, sports center, "discover center," and children's museum (the "Festival Landing" part).
Metroplan's 1995 Portland Trip
Perhaps the second turning point in Moses' professional life occurred from April 29-May 2, 1995, when he accompanied twenty-three other civic and business leaders and fifteen private citizens on a fact-finding mission to Portland, Oregon. The trip, sponsored by the voluntary regional transportation organization Metroplan at a taxpayer cost of $23,000, was organized in an effort to study successful regional planning models and their impact on urban life. Portland had the only directly-elected regional planning organization in the United States, called the Metropolitan Service District (or "Metro") which controlled the city's urban growth boundary established in 1979 to reduce sprawl and encourage infill. The city also featured a novel semi-public Portland Development Commission for urban renewal and new urbanist public-transportation system featuring streetcars, urban light rail, and regional commuter rail express service.
Participants in the Portland trip included Cabot mayor Joe Allman, Lonoke County judge Don Bevis, Bryant mayor Roy Bryant, Little Rock assistant city manager Cy Carney, North Little Rock aldermen Dan Carter, Olan Thomas, and Tony Vestal, Stephen Chaffin, Jim Hendricks, and Jimmy Moses of the Downtown Partnership, Saline County Quorum Court member Doug Curtis, Little Rock mayor Jim Dailey, UALR assistant to the chancellor Sandra Davis, Rose Law Firm partner Jane Dickey, Maumelle mayor Eddie Enloe, Don Evans of Witsell, Evans, and Rasco Architects and Planners, Ward recorder-treasurer Joyce Feltner, North Little Rock mayor Pat Hays, Pulaski County Quorum Court member John Hall, Little Rock Neighborhoods and Planning Director Jim Lawson, Department of Arkansas Heritage director Beverly Lindsey, Little Rock directors Jesse Mason, Dean Kumpuris, and Linda Joyce, Shannon Hills mayor Harold McIntire, Benton mayor Mitch McDonald, Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie, Saline county judge Jerry Parsons, UALR Donaghey Project student Chris Patterson, One Source Home and Building Centers owner Gene Pfeifer, Donaghey Project adjunct professor Steve Rousseau, Larry Stone and Millie Ward of Stone and Ward Advertising Agency, Jacksonville mayor Tommy Swaim, the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce's Joe Swaty, Donaghey Project coordinator Jim Vandenberg, Pulaski County judge Buddy Villines, and Donaghey Project director George Wittenberg III.
Moses focused his attention during the trip on the new downtown Riverwalk Park and RiverPlace development, located on the site of a former expressway, the almost finished Rose Garden indoor sports arena and a new Portland Convention Center, the thirty-three mile MAX Light Rail network begun in 1978, and the downtown Portland Streetcar Project just underway. Moses also appreciated the unique public-private partnerships that the city had forged between local government entities, neighborhood associations, and real estate developers. The Portland Development Commission in particular had long experience with incentive programs Moses found valuable in reducing urban blight while encouraging historic preservation, street- and waterfront improvements, and industrial rehabilitation.
Downtown boosters returned from the 1995 Portland trip convinced that an urban streetcar system could tie together many of downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock's premier destinations, including the Statehouse Convention Center and ALLTEL Arena, and help restore some of the twin cities lost economic luster. UALR professor Steve Rousseau, fresh from the 1995 trip commented, "We're not going to look like Portland. We don't want to. But their situation is not unlike Little Rock 30 years ago. [The trip] simply points up that things can be done to increase the quality of life if we start now." Moses came away with a vision of the collaboration and consensus-building necessary to bringing fundamental urban improvements to central Arkansas. Instead of focusing solely on mundane "day-to-day zoning" problems, Moses favored partnerships for forging invigorating "comprehensive planning" agreements. UALR architect and urban planner George Wittenberg agreed with this sentiment. "A lot of them came back with the understanding that the process is important," he noted. "The way a community gets together is important as well as the organizations that are created to follow up on the communities' wishes." Leaders of the 1995 trip did not come away ready to fight for an urban growth boundary or green building strategies to encourage urban density and minimize environmental impacts, but it did reinforce in Moses' mind the importance of the natural landscape in creating planning recommendations and for purposes of political decisionmaking. "I think Portland can show us something about the whole treatment of the river as a source of life and vitality," he said.
Central Arkansas leaders conceived a new, comprehensive River Project upon their return to capitalize on the new perspective generated in the aftermath of the Portland trip. Trip participants unpacked their ideas in slide show presentations at the Donaghey Project headquarters on UALR's campus and in public seminars downtown. They communicated especially with Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, and Little Rock and North Little Rock mayors Jim Dailey and Pat Hays who were hard at work on a new, narrowly-conceived one-year sales tax proposal to fund only the arena and convention center expansion. The trio called the proposal the River Project because it symbolized the ongoing struggle to tie historic rivals together and link reenergizing parts of both downtowns to one another. "I think we wanted to be able to convince the public that we had a chance of doing a River Project. It wasn't about building two facilities. It was about revitalizing an urban area near the waterfront," remembered Pat Hayes. Villines, Dailey, and Hayes were able to persuade Joe T. Ford of Alltel to raise $17 million in private donations to the arena project in return for naming rights and private arena suites for business entertainment purposes. The Arkansas General Assembly also approved a $20 million funding bill, engineered by North Little Rock representatives Cliff Hoofman and James Dietz, for events center improvements in downtown Little Rock.
The River Project campaign swung into high gear in the spring and summer of 1995, greased by $160,000 in donations for free Arkansas Queen riverboat rides for community representatives and elected officials, and a media blitz culminating in the "Hands Across the River" extravaganza where proponents of the plan held hands in a human chain stretching across the Main Street Bridge. Even tax opponent Jim Lynch supported supported the plan. Said Villines, "I gave about 150 to 200 speeches on this thing, and the one thing I heard over and over was that the one thing they like best about this is we've got people on both sides of the river working together for the first time. That meant something to a lot of people."
On August 1, 1995 Pulaski County voters finally passed - by a 30,889 to 20,452 margin - a one-cent tax, to expire after one year, to pay for $23 million in Statehouse Convention Center improvements and a $51 million arena on the other side of the river in North Little Rock. Moses, Grobmyer, and Allen did not directly choreograph the county plan, to be administered instead by the fifteen member Quorum Court and a new Pulaski County Multipurpose Civic Center Facility Board. Said Wally Allen later, "I don't think we were wrong, because here today we have the expansion, we have the new arena. Politically, we may have gone about it wrong. Well, obviously we did because we failed. But I do think that effort opened the eyes of the people of Little Rock and central Arkansas that if we were ever going to move this city forward then we citizens have to do something, and generally that comes back to paying for something. So even though it was a personal defeat, I feel like years later we've seen a return on those efforts, and they've all been made worth it to me." The resulting 18,000 seat ALLTEL Arena structure evoked Little Rock's historic riverfront economy, projecting itself as a "lantern on the river, calling to the ships coming into port" by way of an enormous multistory glass wall facing the Arkansas riverbank to the southwest. The arena became the home to UALR men's and women's basketball, Arkansas RiverBlades minor league hockey, and Arkansas Twisters Arena Football.
Making the River Market District
Many of the ideas ginned up in discussions stretching back to Moses' Tuesday night drinking sessions with his AMR associates became attached to the River Project in the aftermath of the successful bond issue. A public trolley system, it was hoped, would stitch together the fabric of downtown by connecting ALLTEL Arena and the Statehouse Convention Center to a new farmer's market, the recently upgraded Riverfest Amphitheater in Riverfront Park, shopping and art galleries, museums and libraries, and restaurants.
The centerpiece of ongoing efforts was the Downtown Partnership's River Market Task Force, led by Jimmy Moses and local gastroenterologist and city director Dean Kumpuris. The original plan was for the construction of a $3.5 million Farmer's Market facility along East Markham Street, based on a rough sketch conceived by Moses after a trip to Seattle's waterfront Pike Place public market. Failure of the Diamond Center idea had taught Moses humility and what works and what doesn't in organizing civic campaigns. The River Market Task Force, Moses noted, represented "the vision of a lot more people" than the Diamond Center proposals.
The Farmer's Market morphed into a more comprehensive River Market Development Project anchoring an eight-block area between I-30 and Main Street right along the Riverfront Park. The southern boundary was eventually extended to East Third Street. The project gathered steam as the Task Force appointed the Stone Ward advertising agency and planning firm RTKL of Baltimore to develop and brand the concept. Stone Ward and RTKL settled on the name River Market District. Over the next year $5 million was plowed into the District as the city secured a $1.2 million federal grant for the project and another $1.1 from capital improvement funds, $200,000 for streetscape upgrades, $170,000 from Downtown Partnership membership fees, $100,000 from the nonprofit Riverfest, and $80,000 from the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS). The iconic River Market at Ottenheimer Hall with food vendors, farmer's market, and loft-style reception hall and catering facility opened for business on July 5, 1996. At the end of the year the Metrocentre Improvement District merged with the Downtown Partnership, throwing additional powers to initiate condemnation proceedings and issue new bonds into the mix.
Moses instincts for historic restoration as a way preserve the unique character traits of downtown culminated into two projects to renovate the 1920s-era Fones Brothers and Terminal buildings near the River Market Hall. The Fones Brothers Hardware Company was a metalworking concern established in 1859 by Daniel Gilbert Fones. In 1993 voters accepted a $10.3 million bond issue to turn the Fones Brothers Warehouse into a 132,000 square foot CALS Main Library. The library opened in 1997, housing library collections as well as the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and the Sturgis Center for Technology Training. In 2001 CALS renovated the 1906 Cox Machinery Warehouse as a library annex facility. The building holds River Market Books & Gifts, the Farmer's Daughter Café, and the Thousand Words, Arkansas Artists, and Showcase Arkansas galleries.
The Terminal Building, originally housing the printing presses of the Arkansas Democrat newspaper, underwent a $4 million purchase and renovation in the mid-1990s and reopened as the Museum Center in 1998. Funds for the construction came from the River Project sales tax receipts and a private fundraising campaign. The building became home to the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, Hearne Fine Art, Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing, and a number of restaurants and pubs. Said Little Rock Parks and Recreation director Bill Bunten of the Museum Center, "It's a wonderful building for a museum because of access to Riverfront Park, the plans to make that area along East Markham an entertainment district and its tremendous amount of capacity. No other site, and there were a lot we looked at, had all those advantages."
Downtown revitalization gathered steam, and an overriding sense of urgency, with President Bill Clinton's November 8, 1997, announcement that he would build his presidential library on twenty-seven acres of contaminated brownfield adjacent to the River Market District. The city would soon once again become the center of international attention. Local leaders saw an opportunity to turn the page on the city's segregationist past. The Clinton Presidential Center remains the most expensive privately-funded construction project in Little Rock history. More than 112,000 people made donations to the center totaling $165 million.
The 420-foot Clinton Library cantilevers out towards the Arkansas River, evoking a favorite phrase from Clinton's campaigns in which he often spoke of building a bridge to the twenty-first century. "What it is to me is the symbol of not only what I tried to do," he said at the dedication ceremony, "but what I want to do with the rest of my life: building bridges from yesterday to tomorrow, building bridges across racial and religious and ethnic and income and political divides - building bridges." The library is a glass and steel modernist structure designed by New York architects James Polshek and Richard Olcott. Clinton and the architects created the building to meet four specific goals: longterm architectural significance, environmental sensitivity, tourism potential, and economic revitalization of a declining warehouse district. The architects originally sited the Library in parallel with the Arkansas River bank. Later, they rotated the building ninety degrees to take advantage of a paradigmatic view of downtown Little Rock, which includes six other bridges across the river. Tours emphasize the green building aspects of the Library, which include post-consumer aluminum ceiling tiles, floors made from recycled tires, rooftop solar panels, and acres of glass providing passive solar energy efficiency and natural lighting.
Library designers saved an 1899 passenger train depot on the site, known locally as the Choctaw Railway Station, as a home for the Clinton School of Public Service. The school is affiliated with the University of Arkansas system offering a two year program culminating in a master's degree in public service. Bill Clinton, who often spoke of the "nobility of public service" during his presidency, helped design the curriculum for the school. Some parts of the program are modeled after Boston's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Building the Clinton Library was not easy, and the project attracted lawsuits like flies to the honeypot. Nora Harris v. City of Little Rock began with an April 1998 lawsuit brought against the city by a local tax advocate, challenging the city's raising of $16.5 million in revenue bonds to finance the acquisition of land for the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. The case wended its way through the county court system in 1999 and in June 2000 reached a resolution siding with the city. Harris and her group Empower Arkansas appealed to the State District Court and then the Arkansas Supreme Court. On March 8, 2001, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the decision of the lower court and rejected Harris' claim. The court did indicate that Harris might resubmit her case if she found that general fund revenue rather than park user fees was being used to pay debt servicing or if the City of Little Rock leased the library site to the Foundation. Harris' attorney David Henry said after the decision, "The justices ruled that although our argument about using general fund money to pay revenue bonds was valid, our proof of how they'd make their anticipated debt service payment was speculative. So we filed a bunch of freedom of information requests, looked over an audit report and some budget information, and are now convinced that the general fund is being used to back debt service."
On April 23, 2001, Nora Harris filed a second lawsuit in Pulaski County Chancery Court to block issuance of the park revenue bonds. This time she argued that the bond sale for the parks was not "self-sufficient," meaning that debt payments on the bonds would have to be paid in part out of general fund sources of the Little Rock Department of Parks and Recreation. She claimed that $1.7 million in tax revenue had been diverted for just such a purpose through the renaming of budget accounts. Debt payments from general revenue budgets is prohibited by Arkansas Constitution Amendment 65 without a general referendum. On October 2, 2002, Nora Harris' lawsuit was dismissed by Circuit Court Judge Collins Kilgore.
A second overlapping case involved eminent domain. Eugene Pfeifer III, a wealthy developer with family roots in the prominent Mechanics Lumber Company, owned 2.9 of the twenty-seven acres condemned for the Clinton Library in 1999. In 2000 Pfeifer's attorneys sued the City of Little Rock, which had hoped to acquire his land for a sum of $400,000. Pfeifer argued in court briefs that the city had no authority to take private land unless the property was reserved for public parkland. He argued that the land in question was not to be taken for this purpose in an eminent domain proceeding, as it was not previously zoned for parks. The lower court judgment went against Pfeifer.
Pfeifer filed a court appeal against the city in May 2001. In a nationally-broadcast Fox News segment Pfeifer said he "[did not] approve of the way the decision was made ... to give the land to the library, and I don't approve of the way they decided to pay for it. And I'm hoping that by keeping my land I can then bargain with the library foundation to give the money back to the city, at which point they can have my land for the appraised value, the $400,000." He has also been critical of the Clintons saying, "Barbra Streisand raised $10 million for the Bill Clinton Library in one night, singing in someone's home. Why should my city give land to the greatest private fundraising organization in history?"
Pfeifer specifically cited ongoing financial problems in Little Rock. "Our city is practically broke and can't afford the gift of the land to the library," said Pfeifer. "And only one library in this country [the Truman Library] is on land given by a city. The rest were supplied by the state as a whole or by private funds." He also noted an increase in zoo patron fees and closure of city restrooms to offset a proposed $16 million park revenue bond to pay for the various parcels of land destined for the Clinton Library. "The money specifically came from our zoo. And it came at the very point in time when our zoo lost its license and its accreditation. ... I'd like to see the money go back is to the zoo and the rest of the Parks Department that is suffering from this loss. In the two years since that was done, the restrooms have been closed in 13 of our city parks. We are suffering from this money being shunted aside to buy land for the library." On November 1, 2001 the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against Pfeifer, noting, "Because the city is given broad discretion in deciding what property is necessary now and for the future ... we believe that the city's proposal and supporting documentation make it clear that Pfeifer's entire property was properly taken by the city for the presidential park."
Rubbing salt into his wounds, on August 12, 2002, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) filed suit against Pfeifer in U.S. District Court seeking to recover $400,000 in costs associated with the cleanup of hazardous diesel fuel which had leaked from underground tanks on Pfeifer's portion of the Clinton Library site. Pfeifer's attorney Christopher Parker argued that Pfeifer could not be charged for the cleanup as Pfeifer purchased the land well after the tanks had been abandoned. Parker further cited a signed agreement between ADEQ director Randall Mathis stipulating that cleanup costs would be paid out of the federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. Pfeifer lost this battle too.
The final controversy came when a companion structure to the historic passenger station, the Choctaw Freight Depot, was razed by the Clinton Foundation on November 21, 2001. The depot had been constructed by freed African American sleeves under the direction of Charles W. Clark, owner of the Clark Pressed Brick Company in Malvern, and opened to deliveries in April 1900. The depot fell despite a three-month effort to save the historic structure led by preservationist Gregory Ferguson and Friends of the Choctaw Terminal. Activists complained that the Clinton Foundation and City of Little Rock had failed to fully comply with the spirit of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, which specifies a full site review where historic structures are adversely affected by projects funded with federal dollars. "While I was in the process of filling out my [legal challenge]," Ferguson said, "the demolition contractor's huge front-end loader machines were tearing out the heart of the Choctaw Freight Depot."
Stitching Together a Community
Little Rock River Rail is composed of three separate electric trolley lines connecting major tourist destinations in the Little Rock River Market District of Little Rock, Arkansas, the Argenta Historic District of North Little Rock, the Clinton Presidential Center, and downtown hotels. The River Rail is administered by the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) and officially opened for public service on November 1, 2004, only days before the Clinton Library dedication. Little Rock is one of only ten cities in the country with an active electric trolley rail system.
Lofts and Condominium Development
~!~PORTLAND MODEL **lofts, condominums transform a decaying industrial warehouse area of Portland known as the Pearl District** Moses and Tucker said the idea to target a younger crowd with lower prices for some of the condos stems from both feedback and a Portland, Ore., model. Much of their redevelopment model is based on the Pearl District in Portland, they said. That district was also once mostly warehouses, and now it's a flourishing urban community. Developers in Portland have used similar pricing tactics to lure a more diverse community. "That truly has inspired us," Moses said.~!~
Tuf-Nut Lofts (1999)
Arkansas Capital Commerce Center (2002)
First Security Center (2004)
300 Third Tower (2007)
River Market Tower (2009)
Framework for the Future
Challenged by the loss of the arena to North Little Rock, the earlier plans of the Future-Little Rock Project, and the 1997 decision to site the Clinton Library in Little Rock, the Little Rock Planning Department crafted a new document entitled the "Downtown Little Rock-Framework for the Future." The document was laid before the Little Rock Board of Directors at a meeting on October 19, 1999.
Over the past decade Jimmy Moses has begun to emphasize the positive aspects of past failures in urban renewal. For instance, between 1973 and 1997 district property owners pooled special annual assessments and gave out $50 million in loans for twenty-one startups and improvement projects. Approximately $750 million in new improvements came into the district, including the TCBY Tower. The District also approved the construction of two parking ramps, one bounded by Second, Main, Scott and Third streets, and the other encompassed by Sixth, Scott, Main and Seventh streets in the mid-1980s. "People are real quick to point to things that didn't work, but I see them as small steps that brought us to where we are today. When people look back at the 20th century, those projects - the malls, the parking lots - will be seen as things that helped bring about future development." But Moses also learned an important lesson: "Traditional retailing and downtown as we knew it was dead." Shoppers fled in their cars in droves for places like the new McCain Mall in North Little Rock. One by one retailers closed their doors or moved elsewhere: JCPenney, Zale's, Woolworth's, Haverty's, Stifft's jewelry store, Baker's Shoes, Mangle's, Gold's House of Fashion, and Kempner's Shoe Store. Even Moses Melody Shop could not escape the writing on the wall. Even old community pillars like Dillard's and M. M. Cohn would close their downtown department stores by 1990.
These merchants represented only the latest wave in a long history of storefront closings along Main Street since the 1950s: Gus Blass Department Store, Pfeifer's and the Pfeifer Home Center, Walgreen's, Sears Roebuck, McLellan's, Economy Drugstore, Franke's, Arkansas Carpet and Furniture, Cave's Jewelers, National Shirt Shop, Worthen Bank, Bauman's Men's Store, Standard Luggage, Allsopp and Chapple Bookstore, the Center Theater, and Lido Cafeteria. In 2005 Moses conceded that "Main Street is dead. It is dismal. I'm not trying to be a bad ambassador, but there's nothing for any group to come and regularly see or do." The exodus from downtown has now largely been staunched. "You used to hear all this down talk," Moses recapitulates. "'There's no place to park. Why are you throwing all that money away on downtown? You'll never get the Clinton library here. Who will build condos and live in downtown?'" But dreams die hard, and the urban core as a retailing mecca is a dream still deferred. Downtown now represents a new urban lifestyle choice, an upscale place to live and recreate. In other words, the legacy of Main Street has moved to President Clinton Avenue.
Recognition and Awards
- Julian E. Barnes, "Jimmy Moses: The Man Has a Vision to Give Life to Downtown Little Rock, June 9, 1996.
- Julian E. Barnes, "Jimmy Moses the Man with a Vision," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 6, 1996.
- Kyle Brazzel, "James A. Moses: Success Finally Came Downtown for Jimmy," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 21, 2001.
- JoBeth Briton, "Project 2000 and the Diamond: A City Wrestles with its Future," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 1, 1991.
- James A. Moses, "Assessing the Impact of Central Business District Redevelopment Organizations on Downtown: A Case Study of Little Rock Unlimited Progress, Inc.," M.A.U.R.P. thesis, University of Florida, 1978.
- "Tale of Two Taxes; Chances Slim for LR Arena, but Half-Cent Tax Stands Chance," Arkansas Business, November 15, 1993.