Urban Progress Association
The Little Rock Urban Progress Association was a public-private partnership founded by local private enterprise working with the city manager, city board of directors, Metroplan authorities, and the Little Rock Housing Authority. The Urban Progress Association coordinated the purchase of swaths of deteriorating property by the Little Rock Housing Authority, which demolis some structures and rehabilitated others.
The Urban Progress Association was formed on May 31, 1959, two years after the City of Little Rock reorganized its government from a mayor-city council form to city manager-city board of directors. About three hundred people attended the first meeting and pledged to work together to modernize the city core. The first meeting of Urban Progress was held in conjunction with the first meeting of the group Downtown Little Rock Unlimited, which dedicated itself to "saving" Main Street, then in decline. The two groups met in the Marion Hotel. J. Wythe Walker spoke for Urban Progress and Frank Lyon spoke on behalf of Downtown Little Rock Unlimited. Said Walker at the first meeting, "We believe that a prosperous Little Rock needs growing shopping facilities on the perimeter of the city as well as a healthy central business district; that each is dependent on the other; that, like Siamese twins, neither can grow without the other."
The Urban Progress Association in Little Rock swiftly became a nationally-recognized leader in slum clearance in the 1950s and 1960s. The city received $282,928 with the help of U.S. senators John McClellan and William Fulbright to engage in urban renewal activities in the Philander Smith neighborhood, $2.2 million for the Dunbar neighborhood, $1.3 million for slum clearance in the Granite Mountain neighborhood, $1.3 million for renewal in the Livestock Show Area, $1.4 million in Westrock, and $2.5 million in the East End neighborhood. In all, fifteen percent of the land area of the city underwent significant renewal activity. Raymond Rebsamen, the president of the organization, claimed the group’s goal in the Central Little Rock Urban Renewal Project was to have "the first capital city in the national where no child will come out of a slum to go to school."
The vice president of Urban Progress was Arthur Phillips. Other elected board members included K. A. Engel, Hugh B. Patterson Jr., R. E. Ritchie, and W. R. Witt Stephens, James H. Penick, and Edward M. Penick. Prominent attendees at the 1959 meeting included Jack East Jr., Houston Burford, Louis Munos, Hugo Heiman, and Sam Strauss Sr.. In all the organization comprised forty men, including six local bank presidents, owners of three major department stores, chairmen of local utility companies, two newspaper editors, and numerous major property owners.
The Urban Progress Association and Downtown Little Rock Unlimited merged into Little Rock Unlimited Progress in April 1970.
- Leroy Donald, "Arkansas Cities Take Lead in Urban Renewal," Arkansas Gazette, August 27, 1961.
- "Downtown Little Rock Revitalization Called Boon to Entire Area," Arkansas Gazette, June 2, 1959.
- Ernest Dumas, "Little Rock's Renewal Work Leads U.S., UPA Head Says," Arkansas Gazette, October 20, 1961.
- Raymond Rebsamen, Little Rock: Poised for Progress (Little Rock, AR: Urban Progress Association, 1960).
- Raymond Rebsamen, The President's Report (Little Rock, AR: Urban Progress Association, 1961).
- "Rebsamen Reminds Leaders of Planning Opportunities," Arkansas Gazette, January 27, 1961.
- Dean Reed, "Little Rock's Renewal Program Gets Rave Notices," Arkansas Gazette, November 5, 1961.
- Bob Sallee, "Decrying Downtown's Demise," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 17, 1997.
- "What's Urban Renewal? It Halts the Blight and Rebuilds Cities," Arkansas Gazette, January 16, 1966.