Favorite

Downtown dreaming 

Those acquisitions, though relatively small, are apparently part of a very big idea. Stephens has in mind: transforming the cityscape that lies below his aerie in the Stephens skyscraper on Center Street. Dreams are cheap. Stephens has the capital to make them real. And he seems serious. Already, he's plunked millions down on a prime parcel in downtown North Little Rock. It could become a new home for the Arkansas Travelers baseball team. It would be a people magnet 68 nights a year. So, too, would be a new and grander Arkansas Repertory Theatre (though I admit I like the current Rep's main theater as well as any I've been in), a new Center movie house with cafe and cocktails, plus other new restaurants and entertainment venues. These are part of the outline given to Sabin on Stephens' Main Street plan. The Main Street development would augment the River Market area. It would encourage still more people - particularly young people - to visit and live downtown. The dream is to build lofts and condos on the floors above ground-floor retail and entertainment spaces. Because the project would carry the Stephens family's backing, there are certain to be a few naysayers, sure that the public is somehow being had by a powerful interest. We can't be sure of anything until the details are known, but I tend to doubt it. If downtown is such a gold mine, it wouldn't be a mostly moribund pile of decaying buildings. Somebody with $100 million could easily find safer places to put it. It's not just the vagaries of real estate development that must be overcome. The investment would be nothing less than a gamble that a half-century of sprawling city development trends could be, if not reversed, partially arrested. That's an exciting notion. It's also exciting to finally see a major private player step to the plate. Little Rock has seen millions in development downtown in recent years, but it has been dominated by public investments. The River Market, the Alltel Arena, the Clinton Library, a trolley line and a new library all rest heavily, if not exclusively, on public support. There have been some large private projects -- the Acxiom headquarters, an office/condo project and a hotel/condo project -- but several of these have had significant public contributions, ranging from tax breaks to parking deck and streetscape work. And the private projects wouldn't have been built without the public projects nearby. Other cities, such as Chattanooga, have succeeded in revitalizing their cores only because of significant investments by private interests. I should add that this wouldn't be the first community investment by the Stephens family. They've put more than $100 million into UALR, UAMS and other institutions, including a city golf course for kids and the Episcopal Collegiate High School. Sure I'll read the fine print when and if a final plan emerges. But, so far, I haven't heard anything not to like.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Pork barrel III

    Mike Wilson, the Jacksonville lawyer and former state representative, for the third time last week won a victory for the Arkansas Constitution and taxpayers and set back pork barreling.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Fishy lawmaking

    Last week, the legislature decided not to press a fight that could have further upended a balance of power in Arkansas already tilted too far in favor of the legislative branch.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • LR Central at 70

    The city of Little Rock has finished its "Reflections on Progress" observance of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School and the people most affected managed to put well-placed asterisks on the notion that this was a story all about racial progress.
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

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 Recent Comments

  • Re: Trust and obey

    • A very timely and beautifully written piece. Indeed, the whole frightening paradigm is about preserving…

    • on October 15, 2017
  • Re: Trust and obey

    • Anyone else ponder how many times donald trump, playboy for five-decades, may have paid for/insisted…

    • on October 14, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theories

    • Here's the business end of the Politifact article cited above by Vanessa: "Newsweek's claim is…

    • on October 14, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation