Favorite

There went the neighborhood 

Airport expansion, empty lots and Little Rock's fading East End.

The fox that bounds away at our approach looks like an illustration from a child's storybook: sleek, rusty brown, his brush tail following him into the weeds like the tail of a comet. Seeing such a creature, it's hard to believe that a man could probably walk west from here to downtown Little Rock in less than 45 minutes without even getting winded.

Fifteen years ago, there was a neighborhood where the fox lives now. Across the street was the old Hollinsworth Grove housing project. Only the streets remind you now that any of it was ever there. Nearby, a clapboard house still stands, just barely. It is slowly returning to the dirt. The walls and roof are folding in on themselves, like rotten origami. The vines are taking it all back.  

Out past the Clinton Library and the headquarters of Heifer Project International, the East End community — the largely black neighborhood roughly bounded by Bond Street and the railroad in the east, Ninth street and the airport to the south, and the Arkansas River to the north — is frayed to the point of breaking. It was mostly commercial properties that gave way for the Clinton Library and Heifer Project International construction. Meanwhile, the downturn in the economy has dampened construction on a "non-profit corridor" in the area, including a new 167,000 square foot campus for Lions World Services for the Blind planned for Sixth Street between College and Collins Streets, and an office for Carelink, which provides services for the elderly, across from Heifer on World Avenue.

Go further east, and you'll find that airport expansion — with dozens of houses bulldozed for a new runway, future development and to blunt the impact of the noise from airplanes — has carved into the places where people lived. The little community school on Apperson Street where the neighborhood kids went to class in the 1950s stands forlorn, with broken windows. The school-sized Nathaniel W. Hill Community Center on Sixth Street — with a full service medical clinic run by St. Vincent Health — stands largely empty most days. The Carver Magnet School still draws hundreds of kids, but they come from miles away. Driving around the East End, the feeling on block after block near the airport is one of emptiness; that this is a place where the world has moved on.

 

It wasn't always this way. During the 1940s and '50s, returning black G.I.s — spurred by the crumb of equality they'd known in the military — came home to the East End and set about trying to change things, eventually helping form the East End Civic League. The voting block the East End could deliver on Election Day would become a force in Little Rock politics, a fact which paid off in the form of improvements like sidewalks, street lighting, and eventually the community center and Hollinsworth Grove.

The vitality of the East End in those days seems a thousand miles away from Travis Coleman's garage at the corner of Sixth and Bender Street Started in 1979, it's one of the last retail businesses still open in the East End. The day we visited, Coleman and several employees were readying scrap to take to the recycling yard, prying the lead weights off scuffed aluminum rims before loading the wheels into a truck. Coleman's tow rig, with his name and phone number on the door, sat off to the side, looking like it hadn't moved in awhile.

"I've been having a hard time," Coleman said. "You're never going to make a whole lot, but I wasn't struggling. I'm struggling now."

Favorite

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by David Koon

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Latest in Cover Stories

  • Vive la resistance!

    House Minority Leader Michael John Gray wants to chair the Democratic Party of Arkansas. His plan to lead the party back to relevance: Start listening to Arkansas again.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • A new day for child welfare?

    After strategizing for months, DHS officials have a plan to address Arkansas's foster care crisis.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Jeff Nichols, 'Loving' and the space in between

    The Little Rock native turns to an unheralded chapter of the civil rights era with his new film.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Learning to love North Little Rock in Park Hill

    • My father in law built this house from WW2 materials he bought cheap. The walls…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: A killing in Pocahontas

    • my name is kimberly some parts are true some are not travis was a victum…

    • on December 4, 2016
  • Re: Vive la resistance!

    • We are not asking you to place a stent in the Democrats Heart nor to…

    • on December 4, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation