Project 2000

From FranaWiki

Project 2000 was $100 million plan sponsored by the Little Rock Downtown Partnership to replace Barton Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds with a downtown multi-use sports arena.

Jimmy Moses became an active booster, with childhood friends Mark Grobmyer and Wally Allen, of 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.


  • Kyle Brazzel, "Wallis Blair Allen," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 4, 1999.
  • JoBeth Briton, "Project 2000 and the Diamond: A City Wrestles with its Future," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 1, 1991.

External links