The "Financial Quarter" — a design idea for downtown | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The "Financial Quarter" — a design idea for downtown

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 5:02 PM

click to enlarge studio_main_plus_quarter.jpg

Architects, developers and business people met today to talk about transforming the look, feel and use of a 30-block area that includes Capitol Avenue and blocks north, which they've tagged as the "Financial Quarter." (The boundaries, not written in stone, would be Broadway and Main on the west and east and the Arkansas River and Sixth Street on the north and south.)

The get-together was spearheaded by the design collaborative StudioMAIN (1423 Main St.), whose members include, among others, Chis East of Cromwell Architects Engineers, Joe Stanley of Polk Stanley Wilcox; Glen Woodruff of Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson; and John Martin of Moses Tucker. The idea: 

"... to mobilize the design community to engage, through innovative design, the stake holders of the “Quarter.” Engagement by creating solutions for the most basic of spaces to the most engaging of spaces: we believe that innovative design will draw people back into the financial heart of our City. 

Chief among the ideas was to brand and re-energize the street by, for example, transforming the "mausoleum" (Rett Tucker's apt description) bank lobbies — such as the vast and empty lobby of Bank of America — with retail, liven the cold-looking plazas in front of the banks with such things as pop-up eateries or stores, paint the crosswalks — or even the streets — in a color that would signal to pedestrians that they were in the Financial Quarter. Outdoor dining. A park. Special events — maybe even a Riverfest extension. All with an eye to giving the same vibrant feel to Capitol that exists in the River Market district today. 

Jimmy Moses noted that the River Market area was once desolate, with less to work with than Capitol and surrounding streets. He said the River Market itself, a public investment, was key to the redevelopment of the area, and wondered what sort of dynamo the city could add to Capitol. He added that he thought Third Street from Main to Broadway — which is lined by parking lots — was also sorely in need of transformation. 

Coincidentally, the meeting followed after yesterday's announcement from a partnership that owns the old Sterling Store on Capitol and the building housing EJ's Eats of new businesses coming in, including Mylo Coffee Co., Jerky's Spicy Chicken. Also coming to the Sterling store building (now owned by Jordan Haas): Crossfit Composure gym.

The group will talk to law firms and major businesses, like Stephens Inc., to get input in coming weeks. 

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