Since that time, Pettaway has begun to breathe again. Gang activity has abated. The Downtown Little Rock Community Development Corp. added 19 homes to the area between 2003 and 2013. More than a dozen homes have been built in the past six years and at least eight houses are under construction from Daisy Gatson Bates Drive on the north to the 1900 block of Cumberland on the south. Much of the block bordered by 20th and 21st streets north and south and Rock and Commerce streets east and west has been prepared for development by a corporation named Lorax, named after the titular character in Dr. Seuss’ 1971 book. He’s the one who says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” –––––––––––––––––––– When this reporter mentioned the 21st Street Posse to Denise Jones Ennett, 41, who lives at Bragg and 16th streets, she gave out a loud laugh and exclaimed “Ah, my God!” It had been years since she’d heard mention of the gang, though it was because of it that her parents made her walk straight from school to her home — the very house she lives in today — every day. Eventually, her parents, fed up with vandalism and break-ins, moved west of Main to Gaines Street and leased the house on East 16th. After a move and marriage in Oklahoma City, Ennett returned to Little Rock in 2010 with her husband, Cecil, and rented the house on East 16th Street from her parents. In 2016, the Ennetts bought the home and embarked on a restoration project. The slate-blue Colonial Revival home, built in 1907 by Gustave Kleinschmidt, is now on the National Historic Register. Kleinschmidt not only built his house, but 32 others in the neighborhood, creating — contemporaneous with the southward expansion of businesses on Main Street — a working-class neighborhood in the previously only lightly settled area. Only six of the homes Kleinschmidt built remain; the rest fell victim to Interstates 30 and 630, fires, dereliction and the disastrous 1999 tornado that heavily damaged 55 homes east of Broadway, 27 of them beyond repair. In 2010, Denise Ennett said, much of Pettaway “looked like somebody just forgot about it. There were a lot of empty lots. It was just, like, forgotten.” But the Pettaway area was very much on the mind of the nonprofit downtown CDC, which was founded by area residents in 1992 to increase access to housing, promote economic development and work against neighborhood deterioration: As the Pettaway Neighborhood Association was being formed, the CDC opened the Mahlon Martin apartments, 45 units in rehabbed buildings at 1917-1923 S. Main St. Between 2002 and 2013, the downtown 30 MAY 2019
PHOTOS BY BRIAN CHILSON
CDC built or remodeled 15 affordable and four market-rate homes. It worked with the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, federal HOME grants and local banks to offer homes to first-time home-buyers. The new homes included traditional styles as well as three contemporary-style modular homes designed by fourth- and fifth-year students in the University of Arkansas School of Architecture’s Design Build program. In 2012, the downtown CDC built the city’s first two container homes, residences created from shipping containers and promising excellent insulation and storm protection. The modular homes — including a cantilever dwelling whose second floor extends several feet over the ground floor — weren’t Pettaway’s first contemporary residences. Page Wilson of Paul Page Dwellings had begun
building metal-framed homes in 2006, including five on South Rock Street and two on East 15th Street. In a recent interview, downtown CDC chairman Adam Fogleman called Wilson the “unsung hero” of the Pettaway area. “Page Wilson kind of led the charge in a lot of ways,” Fogleman said, “shedding light on what was possible.” Since 2006, Wilson has built or been associated with 17 new homes in the area, working with a number of designers, including Herron Horton Architects Inc. and gus design coop’s David Anderson. –––––––––––––––––––– In 2014, a new builder arrived on the scene. Mike Orndorff, the Lorax LLC incorporator, and his wife, Alexandra Marshall, built a home at 609 E. 16th St.
New Look for Pettaway KOKY KEEPS SPEAKING | DRIVING THE TALIMENA BYWAY | BIG IDEAS 2019