In the mid 1990s, the Little Rock Farmer’s Market was housed in the parking facility at Sixth and Scott in what was then a struggling downtown. Combined with ongoing efforts to revitalize the area, Little Rock leadership and downtown stakeholders felt the market would better serve its vendors, customers and the downtown revitalization efforts by moving to East Markham Street in Riverfront Park.
Across Arkansas, everyday folks are working behind the scenes in communities such as Conway, Eureka Springs, Ozark, Mena and Fort Smith as part of the Main Street Arkansas and Arkansas Downtown Network community programs. To be successful, they follow Main Street America’s Four-Point Approach of organization, design, economic vitality and promotion.
Empowering people who love their community and want to be involved but don’t know where to start is the goal of Uncommon Communities. Using a cohort model, Uncommon Communities lets community activists from different towns network and engage, sharing common issues and brainstorming creative solutions.
Searcy, Arkansas—White County seat and home of several economy-boosting institutions like Unity Health White County Medical Center, Harding University and a Walmart distribution center—has long searched for ways to bring positive attention to its community. But being reality TV star is a new one, even for those thinking outside the box
Bryan and Bernice Hembree, two of the Fayetteville Roots Festival co-founders, are also a husband and wife duo, Smokey & The Mirror. The two of them have toured nationally/internationally over the past decade while continuing to grow the festival at home. Their band, which recently released a new album, “Here & Now,” has supported tours for Old Crow Medicine Show, ….
The 2017 edition of Block, Street & Building magazine included an article on adaptive reuse and infill development, and highlighted the then-Dollar Saver building in downtown Rogers. Two years and some incredibly heavy lifting by many inspired and hard-working people later, the property now known as The 1907 Building has transformed from a deteriorating former warehouse grocery into an incredibly active local focal point.
If an Arkansan says, “Go take a hike,” it’s all in good humor. After all, seemingly wherever you go in The Natural State, communities large and small are installing new trails or enhancing existing ones. Arkansas is certainly on the go—to the outside—while reaping economic and quality of life benefits along the way.
Like most places in America, the urban avenues of Arkansas comprise the vast majority of our public space. The presence or absence of bike lanes, street trees, sidewalks, parking, as well as nuances in building size, location, use and design can teach you almost everything you need to know about what is most important to decision makers, but what do these characteristics teach us about the values of people who live in these communities? The extent to which a community’s values are expressed in the design of its public spaces is perhaps one of the best measures of success in urban planning.
Communities across Arkansas are discovering place building as an effective strategy for urban renewal, business attraction and workforce retention. Once thought of as community window-dressing emphasizing the nice over the necessary, place building's emphasis on quality of life and community amenities is an increasingly valuable chip in the high-stakes drive for economic growth.
Those of us who work in the travel industry not only need to work to engage and attract visitors, but we also need to be concurrently active in helping our community develop the products and experiences necessary to cultivate great places. Communicating the value of tourism and the importance of place to our political and private sector leaders is often necessary, as their decisions affect a city’s competitive position in Arkansas’s billion-dollar tourism industry. Our work directly correlates to local jobs and increased tax revenue. Simply put, cultivating great places for tourists and citizens is economic development.
To understand why cities like Little Rock pursue corporate headquarters like Amazon, look no further than Bentonville and El Dorado. Walmart in Bentonville and Murphy Oil Co. in El Dorado aren’t new to those cities—on the contrary, both are homegrown—but these companies are still very much in the process of physically redesigning the towns.
In the early days of the Fayetteville Roots Festival, Bryan Hembree just wanted something that fit Fayetteville, and roots-style music sounded right. As it turns out, that concept was bigger than any one stage, and he learned that hours before the first event. A pipe burst just before show time at the intended location, and he and co-creators Bernice Hembree and Jerrmy Gawthrop scrambled to move the bands they had booked to a different venue.