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Little Rock downtowners 

Community without the commute.

There are many reasons downtowners give for settling near the city's heart: they like the parks, they like being close to where they work, they like the nightlife. The folks we interviewed come from all walks of life, but they intersect in what they like most about downtown: the feeling of community.

Event coordinator, gardener

Liz Sanders is the event coordinator for the Bernice Sculpture Garden at Daisy Bates and Main and her partner, Ryan Dunn, is an artist and a farmer, growing flowers and vegetables for the summer Farmer's Market held there and the Root Cafe nearby. They moved in May to an apartment in a recently renovated 1890 Victorian at 2008 Scott St., now a duplex; their landlords allow them to use all of the empty quarter-acre lot next door for their large garden. A picket fence encompasses the lots, which soar above street level, the kind of site that recalls 19th century coaches and coach steps and grand entrances. The two have lived downtown for a couple of years, first at 10th and Scott, attracted by the historic houses. Downtown, Sanders said, is a good place for people who have an "open mindset" — especially the under 30 set that she and Dunn fall into. She's lived in Hillcrest and the Heights, and prefers the "authentic city neighborhood" presence of downtown. "It doesn't feel like Little Rock," but a more bustling place, one open to diversity and new opportunities. Sanders said friends who live in other areas of the city have told her they "don't go past Community Bakery" because they feel the area is dangerous, but "that's a misrepresentation of what's actually here," she insists, a leftover from the "Bangin' in Little Rock" documentary of gangs made in 1994. Sanders and Dunn said they would have to think hard about leaving the community. Some day, of course, Dunn hopes to live in the country, where he can grow vegetables and have goats, which aren't welcome on the 20th block of Scott Street.

Financial planner, plant manager

Sarah Catherine Phillips Gutierrez got her master's degree from the Kennedy School in Boston, and traveled to the Sudan on scholarship. Her husband Jorge was born in Colombia and studied in Chicago. So they've been around the block, as the saying goes. Now, however, their world is really just a few blocks, and that's the way they like it. Their one-bedroom condo in the Capital Commerce Building is next door to I-30, which Jorge takes to get to his job as technical director and plant manager of Poloplaz Inc. in Jacksonville. It's blocks from the Stephens Building, where Sarah Catherine runs her business, S.C. Phillips. Their baby, Marco, is close to his nanny, who lives just down the street. Before she married, Sarah Catherine — who is also a salsa teacher and who came home to work for Stephens Inc. as a security and defense researcher — lived in the Quapaw Tower, so she knew she wanted to stay downtown after she and Jorge married. (Yes, they met at her salsa classes.) Now, the spacious living room is Marco's. "It's wonderful to have a small baby in a small environment," Sarah Catherine said. Parking is easy, the elevator makes getting out with Marco easy. Sarah Catherine strolls him on the Clinton Library grounds; she said she can't wait until spring to take him there to play. One day, they'll be able to walk to the Museum of Discovery and Riverfest. The couple invite friends to watch fireworks from their rooftop garden. Yes, they have to give friends who live out west directions to the condo when they invite them down, but one of her best friends lives on Louisiana. Yes, sometimes grocery shopping is a pain. But, she added, she can pick up milk and eggs across the street at Stratton's Market at Dugan's Pub, just across the street. All they need in the world is there.

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