In the last two decades, there's been an undercurrent of tension that hums along the western expanse of the Cantrell Road/state Highway 10 area from Interstate 430 to Chenal Parkway. It's a delicate balance between the desires of two very different forces: one that seeks the preservation of the area's natural beauty and an ideal of residential living, while the other heeds the siren's call of commercial development dollars. It's the clashing realities of country and town, with periodic eruptions that are fought in city hall and sometimes in the courtroom.
Thirty years ago, Highway 10 was a ribbon of a road that wound its way west on a scenic course parallel to the Arkansas River, past Pinnacle Mountain, the shores of Lake Maumelle and into Perry County. The two-lane passed the small black community of Pankey, a couple of liquor stores, some trailers and lots of pine trees.
Today, Highway 10 is a principal arterial (the largest road designation below an interstate) for the city to points west. A drive along the corridor offers a variety of views. Great cliffs of stone rise up at sharp angles from the road, covered thickly with trees, which give way to gently rolling hills. Split rail fences along the highway frontage add a country air, as this piece of Arkansas River valley land gives way to the early foothills of the Ouachita Mountains.
On the residential front, there's a mixture of housing types, from upscale apartments and million-dollar mansions to the occasional ramshackle house with rusted cars parked in the yard.
The first major development in this part of West Little Rock, Pleasant Valley was once part of a horse farm owned by Charles Taylor, who bought the first 90-acre tract near the intersection of Highway 10 and Rodney Parham Road (then called Perryville Loop Road) in 1929. During the next 30 years, Taylor would purchase 52 adjoining parcels, for a total of about 1,200 acres. He sold 1,100 acres to R.A. Lile, Ernest Phillips and Sam Rowland in 1959, and Pleasant Valley Inc. was formed. Future Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller was reportedly an early investor.
The first homes were built in the mid-1960s and the neighborhood was completely developed by the '70s, for a total of about 1,000 homes. Today, Pleasant Valley boasts large lots with mature hardwood trees, rolling hills populated with pine trees and about 50 acres of dedicated green space. There are two swimming pools, one on Hidden Valley and one on Arkansas Valley; both have been renovated within the last decade. There are also tennis courts and two playgrounds. A small creek that runs along the backyards of homes on Happy Valley Drive provides unstructured play for kids on the block. The Pleasant Valley Property Owners Association is responsible for maintaining the green space and amenities.
Adjacent to the neighborhood is the Pleasant Valley Country Club, a private club with a 27-hole championship golf course.
The original 90-acre parcel that served as the Taylor homestead was later developed into office space that at one time housed Systematics and Alltel, and is now the home of Fidelity Information Systems and the headquarters of Windstream Communications.
Farther west on Highway 10 are the Pleasant Forest and Walton Heights neighborhoods.
These rooftops, especially the ones that cover the well-heeled residents of neighborhoods Chenal Valley and Valley Falls Estates, attracted a variety of commercial developers with plans for office buildings and shopping centers in the early part of the 21st century.
But it's not just the residential developments that fuel commercial growth. Among the 100,000 square-foot office giants on Highway 10 are a call center for AT&T Wireless; FamilyLife, a part of Campus for Crusade for Christ; and Leisure Arts, the giant publisher of how-to instructional books on needlecrafts and home decor. The three combined employ upwards of 1,000 people, and restaurants, gas stations, banks and retail stores have flocked to the area.
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