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Meet the neighbors downtown 

click to enlarge MARY NEAL BRIDGES:
  • MARY NEAL BRIDGES:

Mary Neal Bridges

Executive with Wholesale Beer Distributors of Arkansas

First Security Center

Though she could barely see for all the dust and plastic, the moment Mary Neal Bridges stepped off the construction elevator on the 13th floor of the then-under-construction First Security Center, she knew she had found what she wanted.

“We had to wear hard hats to come up and look at it,” she said. “I knew immediately, and I think we bought it within the week.”

When she says “it,” what she’s talking about is most anybody’s definition of a downtown dream home: two large condominiums that she and her husband, banker Todd Bridges, bought and then had melded together into (several) rooms with a view. For the past year, she and Todd have lived there with their teen-age daughter and two dogs.

The condo is good bit more pricey than where they lived before: West Little Rock’s trendy River Ridge neighborhood, near the junction of I-430 and Cantrell Road. As a lover of the hustle and bustle of other big cities, Bridges said that moving downtown was something that she has wanted to do for years. Though the place was expensive, she said she sees it as a great investment. They’re saving some too: “With the cost of the yard and the maintenance and the upkeep, in the end, it all evens out,” she said. “You still have the things that you have to do, but it’s not like you’d have in a house.”

Bridges said that other than carrying up groceries in a cart, she honestly can’t think of a down side to downtown living. As a member of a family with busy schedules, however, she does say she couldn’t live there without the services of her friendly neighborhood dog walker, who takes the Bridges’ pooches for a stroll twice a day.

“I couldn’t do it without him,” she said. “It would be very difficult, because we couldn’t get rid of our dogs.”

John “A.O.” Alfred-Ockiya

U.S. Air Force

Rock Street Lofts

An active duty airman with the Air Force, John “A.O.” Alfred-Ockiya lived in North Little Rock after he was transferred to the Little Rock Air Force Base two years ago. After a year of living on the north side, however, a friend with an itch for Little Rock loft living — and only half the money he needed — talked him into packing up and crossing the bridge. A resident of Rock Street Lofts for a little over a year now, where he and his roommate pay about a dollar per square foot for a two-bedroom, two-bath loft, Alfred-Ockiya said that his new place provides him with everything he was looking for, and all within commuting distance of the air base.

“It’s just a better location,” he said. “A better amount of people that are my age to hang out with, in a relatively centralized location.”

As a 20-something, Alfred-Ockiya said that he likes living near the nighttime entertainment offered on President Clinton Avenue. An outdoorsy type, he likes being able to take his bike out for a ride along the river. He likes that Rock Street Lofts has a rooftop patio. “You get a good view of downtown when you’re up on the rooftop,” he said. “There’s a grill up there for all the tenants, so we can barbecue whenever we want.”

Alfred-Ockiya said the only drawback is the lack of retail shops downtown. “That’s a bummer; I wish there was more convenience, more stores.”

What Alfred-Ockiya likes most is the community at Rock Street.

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