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The Best of New Urbanism in Arkansas BREACHING



Volume 3 | 2017

> Beyond Dogtown > Bentonville’s 8th Street Market > Statewide Adaptive Reuse & Infill Projects


We’d love to see your business be a part of our blended mixeduse development that perfectly pairs historic preservation with infrastructure improvements to make our 12th Street corridor a vibrant and vital part of the capital city.

Call 501-918-5130 to schedule a tour today.

BLOCK STREET&BUILDING The Best of New Urbanism in Arkansas

28 BEYOND DOGTOWN Developing the Argenta Experience

DEVELOPMENT’S 44 36 BREACHING THE INTERSTATE HIGHEST CALLING How SoMa and East Village Broke Through Concrete Barriers

Spotlight on Adaptive Reuse & Infill Projects

FORM AND FUNCTION 54 FOOD, AT THE 8TH STREET MARKET Transforming a Tyson Chicken Plant into a Vibrant, Innovative Hub in Bentonville



Letter from the Editor

New Urbanism Champions 16 Wes Craiglow: Sculpting a City 
 20 Dan Fowler: Community Leader 22 Ted Herget: The Business of Change 24 John Chandler: The Eye For Opportunity 26 Ryan Hale: Shifting Lanes, Shifting Perspectives 34 Rob Coleman: Transforming a Family Company 53 Ryan Biles: Planting Roots 56 Chris Baribeau: Setting the Table Through Design 60 Robert Sharp: The Urbanist Eye 66 Thomas B Merritt: Living the Art of Design 4 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

Features 10 Designing a Great City 14 Building a Great City 18 Returning to Form 25 The Road to New Resources 39 I-30 Expansion Update 49 Building an Entertainment District 50 Designing in the Delta 58 Tactical Urbanism 61 Championing High Quality Design

ON THE COVER: The SoMa neighborhood south of I-630 has flourished in recent years despite being severed from downtown Little Rock by a freeway. Photo by Matthew Martin.


Throughout Arkansas

Roller Weight Loss and Advanced Surgery Fayetteville, Arkansas ASU Mid-South Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center West Memphis, Arkansas UAMS Family Medical Center West Regional Campus Fort Smith, Arkansas

Dassault Falcon Jet Little Rock, Arkansas

Mineral Springs K-12 School Mineral Springs, Arkansas

UA Monticello Bankston Hall Monticello, Arkansas










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ARKANSAS TIMES PUBLISHING 201 E. MARKHAM ST., SUITE 200 LITTLE ROCK, AR 72201 501-375-2985 All Contents Š 2017 Arkansas Times


First responders can depend on AT&T to keep their communications connected & protected during an emergency. Discover the power of &. Visit Š 2017 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.




he built environment helps define and articulate the essence of place, offering a stage upon which the theater of daily life plays out. At its best, a city’s physical realm contributes to and lifts the human experience, celebrating a community’s vision and articulating a strong cultural narrative. At its worst, poor design strips a person’s sense of belonging and connection, contributing to a wide range of social and economic ills. Arkansas has examples of both. This third issue of Block, Street and Building offers some examples of Arkansas at its best, spotlighting those working to ensure that a unique Arkansas culture—informed by its history and strengthened by a growing diversity—continues to present itself in the form and function of the built environment. I offer a big thanks and deep appreciation to those out there grinding away to strengthen their community. I’d also like to offer a challenge: As you travel both around the state and beyond, take a moment to note the detail of the places you inhabit. Look at how the space breathes—the ebb and flow of people and how they interact with the world around them. Watch how time and weather affect their behaviors. Explore the details, and the subtly and nuance of a city. Get off the beaten path and lean into the adventure of place.  Leave it to the French to have a specific word—flâneur (flah-NARE)—for a person who wanders through, observes and narrates the urban experience. Become a  flâneur  and practice the art of looking. Experience the world around you…and bring that learning home to your Arkansas community.

—Daniel Hintz Editor

My flâneur photography (from left) nighttime in Paragould; back alley architecture in Jonesboro; and 4th of July bike parade in Bentonville.


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It’s embarrassing that nearly all of our good cities were built without the use of calculators or AASHTO standards—and often without running water or toilet paper. If centuries of our ancestors across a variety of continents could build cities we still not only use but also adore, surely we can re-learn to build them too. BY ALLISON THURMOND QUINLAN


Photo courtesy Rob Sharp


(Opposite page) Dickson Street in Fayetteville offers excellent walkability with street parking, ample crosswalks and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. Downtown Eureka Springs has many narrow, interconnected streets perfect for pedestrian activity. Mixing uses not only vertically, but also horizontally, places residents within walking distance of amenities they need.

You can solve 80 percent of your traffic problems by building services (shops, doctors’ offices, schools, restaurants) within walking/biking distance of diverse housing.

1. Build small blocks with many small, interconnected streets as narrow as your fire marshal will allow. Start your city with a halfmile to one-mile grid of two lane roads with travel lanes 10 to 12 feet wide. Line them with uses that don’t mind being adjacent to traffic noise, exhaust and danger (and benefit from the increased visibility). Make formalized pedestrian crossings at a spacing of no more than 400 feet apart. Limit car speeds to 25 MPH. Add a grid of streets and alleys in blocks of 150 to 400 feet—any larger and cars will drive too fast and pedestrians will cross midblock and risk death. Build streets with travel lanes 8 to 10 feet wide, and make them nice places to walk. Build some streets that aren’t designed for cars and fire trucks at all but for people. Start with just a few, so that no one panics. Put water and sewer lines under the street paving, with electrical/ cable in an alley behind. Placing utilities outside the paved area dramatically increases the amount of un-buildable land in your city with very little gain. Wide streets not only present a hazard to pedestrians; they represent a colossal waste of money. Narrowing your typical city street from 28 to 20 feet wide provides almost a 30 percent savings.

2. Mix uses, horizontally if not vertically. 80 percent of daily trips Americans take are for shopping, errands, school, church or social activities like visiting friends. You can solve 80 percent of your traffic problems by building services (shops, doctors’ offices, schools, restaurants) within walking/biking distance of diverse housing. This allows people to find a house of the size, type and cost they want in the neighborhood in which they want to live. Fire sprinklers and building codes are complex when mixing uses within the same building. So encourage mixed-use buildings, but realize that you can get nearly all the benefit with almost none of the work by placing services and housing within walking distance of each other, connected with sidewalks you’d be happy to see your kids or elderly grandmother walking on.



Photo courtesy Nancy Nolan (Clockwise from above) Utilize clear glass at the street level of commercial spaces. Look for smart ways to deal with stormwater. Parking lots can quickly become an eyesore for a city. (Opposite page from left) Give street trees plenty of space to grow. Your city must focus on its residents and creating experiences for them.

3. Encourage buildings of 2-4 stories, at the back of sidewalks with a build-to-zone between 10 and 30 feet from back of curb to create enclosed streets. Use land efficiently and make excellent use of infrastructure without getting so large that you need costly elevators or structured parking. Ensure that the building faces along sidewalks are interesting, varied and lively with clear glass at the ground floor of commercial spaces. 4. Don’t let parking ruin your city. Don’t require a set amount of parking spaces for each building; let businesses provide the parking they actually need rather than the parking that you think they need. Put on-street parking on nearly every street instead of building parking lots. Cars backing into streets from on-street parking slows down traffic (which, remember, is the goal on streets but not roads) and makes drivers cautious (and less likely to run into people and injure or kill them). When you absolutely must have a parking lot, screen it from view with a building or a long lasting, interesting wall between 30 and 54 inches tall.


5. Don’t let stormwater facilities ruin your city. Make stormwater facilities city infrastructure. Don’t require detention ponds on every site—create smart, urban watershed districts and acquire property within each district that will be best sited and suited to store, infiltrate, clean and slowly release stormwater from the entire district. Make this green infrastructure useable park space for people to enjoy so that it becomes a place they care for and will vote to maintain. 6. Don’t let “Green Space” ruin your city. Parks, gardens and yards are interesting, useable landscapes that provide habitat services, reduce urban heat island effect and make people happier. “Green Space” is not any of those things. “Green Space” is leftover (wasted) land you weren’t really sure what to do with, or felt you needed to “buffer” you from a failed road or parking lot project. “Green Space” is a waste of resources to maintain, no one enjoys it, and it pushes all your buildings further apart making them less walkable and less infrastructure-efficient.

7. Plant trees—many species, in enough soil to support them. Urban street trees are a critical component to providing ecologically rich, energy efficient and highly loveable cities. Urban street trees live only 13-20 years because they have different needs than rural trees. Choose a wide variety of tree species based on your specific soil texture, pH, infiltration rates and pollution levels. Space small trees at 15-20 feet and large trees no more than 40 feet apart. Remember that trees thrive best when their roots intermingle in connected soil volumes. It’s easier to give trees open soil areas or put them behind the sidewalk. Don’t use tree grates—they’re expensive and nearly always girdle the tree (eventually killing it) due to lack of attentive maintenance.

8. Focus on people and experience. Congratulations, you’ve now built a beautiful, dense, efficient city. Now the hardest and most important part: find people who love it and ensure that their experience of the city adds dramatically to their quality of life. You can build the biggest, shiniest city full of beautiful buildings and well-proportioned streets, but if you don’t make it a nice place to live where can be active citizens who care about your town, it won’t last. You need good jobs, good schools and a responsive city government. You need a range of commercial spaces (and houses) so that people can start a business in a small affordable space, and hopefully make a go of it, and expand into a bigger space (and house). You need, in short, to be a city. It’s going to be messy. Good luck, and Godspeed.

You can build the biggest, shiniest city full of beautiful buildings and well-proportioned streets; but, if you don’t make it a nice place to live where there can be active citizens who care about your town, it won’t last. BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 13

BUILDING A GREAT CITY New Urbanist Neighborhood Design By Ward Davis

Mix of Uses (A Place to Walk To) It isn’t enough for a neighborhood to be “walkable.” People need destinations, particularly places where they can interact with other people or accomplish goals and tasks. Businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops serve as great locations for spending time with other people, while post offices, athletic facilities and dry cleaners are destinations for taking care of daily needs.


ne guiding philosophy drives the design of all great neighborhoods—enhancing human interaction. Great neighborhoods are interesting, inspiring and enjoyable. They put people first and engender a great sense of community. The following elements are crucial for designers and developers to put into place the bones of a community, which the residents, shop owners and visitors then use to create a great neighborhood. COMPONENTS Ask pretty much anyone to name their favorite neighborhood and their answer almost always includes three elements—assortment of homes, mix of uses and variety of public spaces. This is true locally, in Arkansas, where you consistently hear The Heights and Hillcrest in Little Rock or downtown Bentonville and the Historic District in Fayetteville; or nationally, where places like historic Charleston, S.C., downtown Alexandria, Va., Beacon Hill in Boston and the Garden District in New Orleans are often mentioned. Range of Homes The most interesting neighborhoods have a mix of people at all stages of life. To accommodate a wide range of people, there must be a range of home choices between small and large, attached (lowmaintenance) and detached, and for-sale and for-rent. 14 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

Variety of Public Spaces Great neighborhoods provide a range of public spaces that allow different activities: patios for having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with friends; retail squares for shopping, dining and neighborhood events; large parks for throwing frisbees and chasing the dog and pocket parks for taking a break during a stroll or having a quiet conversation with a neighbor. STREETS Street design can either inhibit social interaction by focusing on automobiles, or it can encourage activity by allowing pedestrians and cyclists to feel comfortable. Tight Streets Drivers respond to visual cues much more readily than arbitrary speed limit signs. Narrow streets are one of the most effective ways to signal drivers to slow down. Obviously, pedestrians are safer and more comfortable in environments with slower traffic. Street Trees Street trees also give a visual cue to drivers to slow down, while also protecting pedestrians from the sun. On-Street Parking Cars parked on the street provide effective barriers between pedestrians and traffic. Additionally, on-street parking has much less wasted space than parking lots.

HOMES Porches Front porches provide a great place to relax and enjoy conversations with neighbors. Porches are much more effective if they are close to the street and elevated so that someone on the porch can comfortably talk to a person walking by on the sidewalk. Public and Private Outdoor Space The most livable homes have public outdoor spaces for interacting with neighbors (porches are a great example) and outdoor spaces that are more intimate and private. Great examples are courtyards and sleeping porches. Alley Loading By putting the necessary but ugly parts of homes, such as garages, utility connections, trash pickup, etc. in the back, the fronts of homes are more inviting and beautiful. Architectural Style While historical styles with local precedent are common within urban and New Urban communities, mainly because these styles evolved to fit exceptionally well with the design criteria listed above; it is not necessary for homes to be “traditional” in great neighborhoods. In fact, modern homes, provided they offer appropriate settings for interactions between people, fit in urban settings much more comfortably than in suburban. Many E. Fay Jones-designed homes work beautifully in historic neighborhoods in Fayetteville, while the new town of Prospect in Longmont, Colo., incorporates a wide range of modern homes. ADDITIONAL BENEFITS Not coincidentally, there is a wide range of additional social and economic benefits of well-designed neighborhoods. • Health—Enhanced physical and mental health from increased movement and enhanced social interaction. • Safety—Increased safety through fewer car trips and slower traffic. • Municipal Finance—Reduced municipal burden from decreased linear feet of road and public utilities. • Environment—Improved environmental responsibility by reducing car trips and containing sprawl. • Independence—Greater independence for young, old and disabled, since driving an automobile isn’t required to take care of daily needs or to visit neighbors and stores. • Creativity—Heightened creativity through social interaction (think Palo Alto, Calif., in the 1980s; the Left Bank of Paris in the 1950s; the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Brilliant Minds + Social Interaction = Amazing Results.) Great neighborhoods do not happen by serendipity alone. By thoughtfully incorporating a mix of uses and a variety of homes, as well as beautiful public spaces and pedestrian-friendly streets, designers, developers and municipal leaders can work together to create a framework that people can then shape into a great neighborhood.

425 West Capitol Ave. #300 Little Rock, AR 72201 501.375.3200

S I N CE 1 9 8 1


On-time completions have forged a reputation of honesty and trust. No project is too large, too small or too complicated. We have t hree locat ions in Arkansas. Our main office is located in Barl ing wit h branch offices in Jonesboro & Maumel le. t ion-m BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 15



1. Describe your philosophy for urban planning and design. I believe that all forms of development have a place in cities, from rural-like exurban forms, far on a city’s edge, to vertical high-density forms like those found in its core, and everything in between. Cities cannot simply do the primary forms of development well and become exceptional, although due to antiquated codes and leaders who seek simple solutions, this is far too common a practice. Cities must strive to embrace all patterns and forms because a city’s soul is the humans who live there, and we are infinitely diverse and complex creatures. To best serve the needs and desires of us all equitably, our cities’ built environs, and the leaders and policies who create them, must seek to become as equally diverse and complex. 2. What is the role of a city planning department in helping a community attract developers to invest in urban infill projects? Far too many cities employ development codes written to guide projects on relatively large parcels in new-growth areas near the city’s periphery. This is due to most American cities adopting their first zoning and subdivision policies sometime between the 1950s and the 1980s, a period when planning doctrines suggested vacating

city centers for suburbia. Surprisingly, many have failed to adequately adjust those existing codes to support modern development patterns. This is a challenge to infill because these opportunities often exist on relatively small parcels in older neighborhoods. Codes that demand minimums to lot or building sizes, off-street surface parking or excessive landscaping can consume valuable real estate unnecessarily. In many cases, developers cannot meet those requirements and have their project pencil-out profitably, therefore they abandon the proposal. If cities desire reinvestment within their older districts, the staff planners must ensure their codes support infill development. 3. Describe the steps in the development process from the city perspective. Where do you see the most challenges in that process? Generally speaking, it follows a predictable pattern: application, submission of plans, staff review and mark-up, plan revision, permitting, inspections and approval for occupancy. That might sound linear as written, but in reality, it can be an overwhelming, circuitous and time consuming process for developers. After a decade managing this process during Conway’s commercial boom years, I have come to believe that uncertainty in the regulatory environment can be a threat to how a city is

perceived by investors and, potentially, to their willingness to invest in it. There is nothing wrong about a city adopting high standards for development, but those standards must be applied consistently and equitably for every project. Furthermore, internal staff processes must be managed to reduce lost time for the applicant. Developers should be able to plan for the city’s permitting process as precisely as they can plan budgets or contractor schedules. 4. What are some unique challenges of planning in a college town? The presence of any large university or college is like having a city within your city. It has its own governing body, unique land-use and transportation plans, and in the case of state universities with supremacy provisions, total exemption from city involvement if they desire. It’s safe to say these traits can foster silos and a culture where the city and school rarely connect. This is why I believe leaders at the highest levels must schedule annual events for their staffs to engage about common goals and strategies that can mutually benefit both bodies. This often takes the form of joint planning and development efforts along that blurry edge where the campus and surrounding neighborhoods meet. When done well, these areas are where so much of the vibrant and beautiful “college town” magic happens.   5. What role does the citizen play in informing growth and development policies? Cities need citizens who are informed, passionate about making their city better and involved, where and when they can be of greatest value. I advocate that citizens seek to be more proactive and less reactive. As important to that involvement is the understanding that cities are a living ecosystem in ways similar to the natural world, and therefore, they are in a state of constant evolution. This change is not something to fear or oppose but something to welcome or even create. Citizens should challenge themselves to embrace new ideas and accept some degree of experimentation on their city’s landscape. The stronger forms will survive, metaphorically speaking, and a city’s quality of place and economy will be better over the long term if it’s diverse and adaptable than it would be in a homogeneous, monoculture environment. It really is a lot like nature.

Go rogue and choose your own path

Over 30 years of experience in trail design, construction and land management. Discipline in: Flow Trail, Cross Country Trail, Jump Line Trail, Hiking Trail, Downhill Trail, ADA Trail, Master Trail Plans and design, and much more.

Find us on Facebook or phone 479.445.8212 BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 17


How City Codes Drive Community Design BY MISTY MURPHY

(Left) Downtown Springdale’s form-based code aims to make downtown a more walkable, bikeable environment—made easier by its proximity to regional trails. (Right) Form-based code works toward creating more engaging public spaces, like this square in Springdale alongside the Razorback Greenway that hosts weekly, free yoga classes and a pop-up sitting spot complete with rocking chairs and pastries.


he fabric of urban environments around the country is rapidly changing. Urban planners are taking on the role of curator, turning the mundane repetition of everyday urban life into a unique and evolving experience. The best of these placemakers become rock stars in New Urbanist circles, with hipsters and grayhairs alike fan-girling over them at conferences. The universal goal of New Urbanist thinking is to reform all aspects of development and urban planning, creating spaces designed for people, not cars. To help accomplish this lofty aim, cities around the country are turning away from traditional zoning models and embracing a new way of considering development—form-based codes. While the name “form-based code” has only recently been used, it’s far older in practice. Form-based codes ditch the old mantra of separation present in mid-20th century models. The idea of separating residential areas from places where we work, shop and learn is not new. Thinking of our communities just 100 years ago, people lived, worked and socialized in a walkable, proximal environment. Instead of beating the drum on use and separation, form-based code focuses on the form of buildings and the pedestrian environment. Arkansas isn’t missing the boat on this old, new concept. Though no Arkansas city has yet adopted a citywide implementation of form-based codes, several have embraced them on a smaller scale. Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville, Rogers, Bryant, Siloam Springs and North Little Rock have all implemented form-based code to some degree. In March, the Springdale City Council approved form-based code for its 675-acre downtown area, doing away with all underlying zoning and allowing the code to stand alone. The code was one of the first steps in implementing its Downtown Master Plan adopted in late 2015. “The adopted form-based code fosters a setting for economic growth and redevelopment by regulating the form of improvements and establishing districts to enhance the vibrancy of the neighborhoods through cohesive form and 18 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

character,” said Springdale planning director, Patsy Christie. Springdale’s Planning Department worked with the Downtown Springdale Alliance, consultant H3 Studio and a 15-member community task force to develop its code. The process of developing the code was helped by the plethora of models around the country. Cities with form-based code include Miami, Nashville, Fort Worth, Denver, Tulsa and Austin. The code easily scales down from these big-city examples, for communities with as few as 100 people . All of these cities are looking to the code to enhance livability of urban places and reap the financial benefits of more compact infrastructure needs. Quality of life as a talent recruitment and retention tool is becoming increasingly important and driving many of the development decisions in Northwest Arkansas. With companies like Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt looking to grow and expand in a rapidly changing business climate, a key to continued success is the region’s ability to appeal to workers that could choose to live anywhere. And, as many studies show that upwardly mobile demographics want more walkable, urban neighborhoods, cities are turning to system-wide solutions like form-based code. Economic development was a major factor in North Little Rock’s decision to adopt form-based code in 2016. The codes apply to the Levy and Park Hill neighborhoods with a goal of encouraging redevelopment as places to live, work and play in a compact urban setting that is less car dependent. Shawn Spencer with the North Little Rock Planning Department said the city has yet to see a project come through that would require compliance with the new codes. Like most form-based codes, North Little Rock’s code only requires new construction and projects with substantial development to comply. Like the North Little Rock project, the City of Bryant teamed with the Imagine Central Arkansas Jump Start Initiative project, administered by Metroplan, to develop form-based code. The Heart of Bryant Area Development Code was adopted in 2015, and encompasses “Old Town” Bryant.


In codes like Downtown Springdale’s form-based code, the form of buildings takes precedence of use over traditional zoning concerns.

One of the longest-running and most successful implementations of form-based code is in Rogers. Through a process facilitated by Gateway Planning, Rogers adopted its form-based code and Downtown Master Plan at the same time. Ethan Hunter, district planner for Rogers’ Department of Community Development, said the city is beginning to see several high-profile residential, commercial and civic projects including the Arkansas Arts Academy and townhouses near Lake Atalanta as two projects currently undergoing the review process. “We’re just now getting some of the bigger projects coming through that will be a test of the code,” Hunter said. “I feel like we’re really on the cusp of some big things happening with development projects downtown. We’ve been working with several boutique developers who understand what our vision is and want to be a part of a walkable, urban environment.” To help small and large developers adapt to its new code changes and jump-start implementation, the Downtown Springdale Alliance is offering a façade improvement grant program funded by the Walton Family Foundation. The program offers full funding of design costs and a 1:1 match of up-to $10,000 for construction costs. Eight buildings were selected for the participation in the program, all along a few blocks on Emma Avenue that see the city’s core pedestrian traffic. “This program will have a huge aesthetic impact on our downtown, while showing other property owners around downtown how attainable and accessible the new codes are,” said Kelly Hale Syer, executive director of the Downtown Springdale Alliance. In addition to cities that have fully embraced form-based code, others implement a hybrid version that has elements of traditional zoning with some focus on building materials and design. Both Bentonville and Siloam Springs have hybrid districts in their downtown areas. Siloam Springs adopted its downtown overlay district in 2009, years before the city developed its downtown master plan. Siloam Springs Senior Planner Ben Rhoades said the master plan recommends adoption of form-based code and the city is likely moving in that direction.

Downtown living gets even better as Moses Tucker Real Estate continues to develop exciting new projects in Downtown Little Rock. At The Clayton on Scott you can walk from your apartment to a local brewery, enjoy the new downtown bowling alley, or grab fresh produce at the farmers’ markets. Your neighborhood is your playground at The Clayton on Scott. One and two bedroom apartments starting at $875/month.

OPENING AUGUST 2017 901 Scott Street Little Rock, AR 72201 Call 501.376.6555 or email



Plans for a revitalized East Village.


1. Describe your design philosophy and approach to architecture and urban planning. I think that designers and planners have a responsibility to be conscious of the broader community when designing a building, street or place. Not only should we think about the needs of our clients, but we must also consider how their work affects the broader context. This can be as simple as building a sidewalk to enhance connectivity, conforming to an existing building pattern of setbacks, or careful placement of parking lots and doors to not degrade the quality of a street. These are all based on “rules” that come from our own experiences of great places around us that transcend what can be accomplished through traditional forms of zoning and controls. A community isn’t simply a collection of single buildings in a landscape—it is a finely woven fabric where all buildings, streets and places work together to provide a backdrop for the lives of residents. 2. How did the Leadership Greater Little Rock and Leadership Arkansas programs impact or inform your approach to design and urban planning? Both of those leadership programs are terrific. I learned so much about my community and state during those sessions. There are great differences in the people in our communities, but we are all seeking a quality of life that is universal—


safe neighborhoods, great schools, a good wage and a place to play. The communities that are most successful are the ones that take advantage of the unique character and history of their place to drive people there. It is easy to design a great building, street or park, but leveraging those pieces to create an authentic experience and quality of life is one of the key ingredients to building a great neighborhood or community. 3. What do you see as Arkansas’s greatest placemaking challenges? What are some strategies to overcome those challenges? There are many challenges that we face in Arkansas when it comes to making great places and communities. Our rural town centers have been slowly dying for a number of years. Jobs are disappearing, schools and hospitals are closing, and whole generations are choosing to not return to their hometowns to raise families. What we are seeing today is an almost overwhelming recognition of this by community leaders and a drive to reverse that trend. The solutions that are most successful consider quality of life for residents first. You can see that in places like Harrison, Wynne, Dardanelle, Sheridan, Pine Bluff and many others where leaders are embracing the unique character and history of those places to drive economic development and growth. This transcends socio-economic geography—there is great work being done by community-minded



designers in every corner of our state from Northwest Arkansas to the impoverished Delta. 4. What is your opinion of form-based code, and what is the role of municipal codes in developing/designing great places? Many years ago, when development was slower, and people felt a greater responsibility to be part of building a community, traditional zoning that broadly segregated uses resulted in some amazing places. But today the development environment is much different, and in our own work in community revitalization, the application of traditional codes can often kill development that could help bring back parts of community that need it the most. Form-based codes can be a great alternative, but there has to be a careful application of any code. The role of municipal code is to protect a community’s quality, but also encourage growth, development and renewal in a way that is responsible to both the property owner and the community. Where we have seen some of the greatest successes is in communities that have adopted codes with more broad use restrictions alongside more guidance as to the form of the public realm—streets, setbacks and building form. 5. What are some of the projects you are most proud of and why? The projects that mean the most to me are the ones that have a very real impact on a community. We were involved in some of the earliest revitalization of the Argenta area of North Little Rock, and our work there was a big part of the success that area is seeing today. Our work in East Village in Little Rock has the potential to reverse nearly 60 years of deterioration in one of our city’s oldest neighborhoods, and we are already turning our attention to other parts of our urban core that have long struggled to provide quality of life for residents. Our work in rural communities around the state is a testament to the universal drive for great places and communities in Arkansas. We are proud to play a small part in helping our state become a great place to live, work and play.

Join us in our mission to create a more remarkable urban experience. From the revitalization of Main Street and the Creative Corridor, to newly burgeoning neighborhoods like South Main (SoMa), the East Village, and the Financial Quarter, we’re helping to make the heart of the city beat as one. BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 21

Developed by Ted Herget and designed by Newell Design, East Street is a two-story loft development in downtown Jonesboro.




1. What was the impetus for starting Jonesboro 100, and what is its role? Our Mission is to promote long-term, sustainable economic vitality and a distinctive quality of life that supports modern lifestyles. Such a modern day, citizen-centered initiative is essential to retain and to attract workers at all skill levels and the companies that employ them. It also attracts new and more varied types of retail, from restaurants to specialty retail and services. To accomplish this we need (1.) political leverage to help craft local ordinances that support our mission, and (2.) to create an infection center of a kind that will enable our message to spread and to achieve a broad base of forwardlooking, community-minded Jonesboro residents. 2. Why is placemaking important to the business community? This is a concept that has proved the value of rethinking your surroundings and creating spaces within your community that capitalize on your unique surroundings and characteristics. The purpose is for each space to optimize the cultural, social, health, happiness and wellbeing of its overall community. Several elements are at play—it’s a consequence of a collaborative effort between the different elements that comprise an area, also it focuses on the area’s unique and compelling appeal. At its core, it requires imagination and commitment to improve the area and to better connect public spaces to local citizens. 3. What do you see as some of the greatest community challenges facing the northeastern part of the state? Attitude. The greatest challenge is the status quo “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality that ignores opportunity and potential to improve and move forward, opting instead to remain stuck in idle while the world passes us by. Communities that surrender to this toxic attitude die.

Also, lack of awareness. People don’t accept what they don’t understand. As we move forward, those of us committed to a more progressive and relevant future must do our best to communicate our mission in as clear, concise and defensible a manner as possible. We must remain calm and undaunted in the face of irrational, fear-based opposition that always emerges when the status quo is challenged. These challenges are age-old, but they’re real and worrisome. 4. What do you look for in a community prior to locating a Gearhead Outfitters? We’re a lifestyle company that supports outdoor activities and lifestyle choices aimed at furthering one’s good health and enjoyment of their surroundings. As I’ve traveled to other communities, it is impossible not to notice those communities that view their citizens and their lifestyle needs with the respect they deserve, and the public policy reflects this respect. There’s always a quid pro quo at work in these communities: The better the community treats its citizens, the better its citizens treat the community in return. It goes beyond basic symbiosis, way beyond, to advancing to an exalted level of a fundamental human right: the pursuit of happiness. 5. What are the top five priorities for any community wanting to attract and retain investors? 1. An organization of local leaders committed to quality of life and economic growth imperatives, and operating within a written mission statement that clearly and succinctly promulgates their key objectives. 2. A collaborative effort to represent every key economic and social aspect of the community driven by the progressive values they share. 3. A commitment to translate shared values into public policy and public lifestyle standards. 4. A willingness to change—to move beyond the status quo—to think BIG. 5. Evidence of progress.

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The Eye for Opportunity John Chandler, developer Chandler renovated 314 Main St. in Argenta, which now houses Skinny J’s and Bourbon & Boots. During the renovation, an interior wall advertisement was uncovered and preserved.

1. Describe your investment philosophy and what you look for in a building before purchase. We are primarily buying historic properties and doing renovations. The first consideration is location. Then we search for properties with an intrinsic value within that location or area. We feel it is easier to inherit value than try to create value. We pay attention to every tiny detail during the process since the tenants we are looking for want unique space—something out of the ordinary. They want creative and expressive space. So it comes down to location, price and design. We can’t be the cheapest, nor do we want to be. So, in the end, it is what the property looks like and the image it projects.


2. How do you build your team before undertaking a rehab project? Who is the first hire and why? We are a little backward compared to the typical format. We consult with the agents to assess what the market will bear regarding the economics of the area. Then we hire the contractor first and try to determine the cost, based on all the options available, and then we engage the architect to execute the best solution based on their expertise and input. 3. What advice would you give to firsttime developers? We are just doing boutique-sized projects of around 10,000-20,000 square feet mostly, so I am not sure we are qualified to give anyone advice. Based on what experience we have, I would say surround yourself with experience— professional agents, architects,


contractors—seek their advice and then follow your instincts. 4. What was the biggest surprise you have had in redeveloping an old building? There is a surprise almost every day. Too many to name and too painful to remember! But seriously, with older buildings, you have to make sure that in your budget miscellaneous cost is a BIG number. 5. What is the future of downtown Little Rock? Downtown Little Rock is almost unrecognizable today compared to 25 years ago—it has come that far. It is also not just downtown Little Rock anymore, but includes North Little Rock with the arena, Dickey-Stephens Park and Argenta. I like to think of it as the “City Center” as opposed to Downtown Little Rock. Simple Real Estate 101 is a series of concentric circles extending from a core or center point, and if the heart of the rings is rotten, the whole thing will fall apart. You have to have a core, and downtown is that core. Downtown is not just a place people come to work anymore. It is a place people work, live, play and entertain. The Millennials and Gen Xers want urban, and Baby Boomers who want to downsize and are attracted to the convenience of urban. It doesn’t have to be a huge metropolis to have a thriving downtown. We have a great City Center that will continue to grow. I am betting on it.

THE ROAD TO NEW RESOURCES Bringing the Urban Land Institute to Arkansas By John Coleman

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orthwest Arkansas is in a period of rapid population growth, adding approximately 30 new people every day. How does this dynamic region absorb the population growth while maintaining both the quality of life and an array of opportunities that is attracting people in the first place ? The Urban Land Institute (ULI), the largest network of land use professionals in the world, has a mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land while creating and sustaining thriving communities. Its research, advocacy and professional network offer an enormous array of resources to help answer the complicated question above. Jeremy Hudson, CEO of the Fayetteville-based Specialized Real Estate Group, along with several other people in the placemaking and developing world, formed a ULI chapter in Northwest Arkansas to serve as a resource for those looking to develop and enhance great places around the state. It has already attracted 70 members since forming last year. “The relationships, the research and the inspiration provided by ULI has transformed the way I work,” Hudson said. He added that ULI initiatives like Building Healthy Places—the idea that land use decisions have a direct impact on health—shaped their approach to projects like Uptown, a new mixed-use development designed for walkability, and featuring an installation of musical swings and a community garden with a farmer-in-residence. At an ULI-NWA event last winter, Mike Malone, former executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Council, reinforced this approach, saying that providing transportation options (walking, biking, bus and auto) along with continued redevelopment of the area downtowns are the most critical and immediate steps we can take to retain and enhance the quality of life that makes this area nationally competitive. Already, the ULI-NWA chapter has provided a unique forum for real estate developers, urban planners, non-profit leaders, designers, elected officials and academics​from across the state. Their first-year programs have included panel discussions around land use topics, tours of new developments like the 8th Street Market in Bentonville and Uptown in Fayetteville, and an upcoming peer city trip to Austin. In addition, the NWA chapter was recently selected, along with four other districts, to begin work on a project for Highway 71B in downtown Fayetteville. The project aims to improve connectivity (via biking amenities) between neighborhoods and the major 37mile Razorback Regional Greenway, which connects to every major downtown in Northwest Arkansas. The goal is to improve quality of life for local residents, make exercise convenient and serve as a model for sister cities. As one of the major centers of growth in the state, there are significant opportunities to share the mistakes and successes of the region with other communities around Arkansas. ULI-NWA offers a perfect platform for learning.

12655 Interstate 30 South • Benton, Arkansas 72015 501-776-3825 • BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 25




1. How do you define mobility, and what is its role in the design of communities? Mobility at its core is about moving people. There are many modes or forms of mobility and ways to move people including vehicles, mass transit, bicycles and pedestrians. Our focus at LaneShift is on the active or human-powered forms of mobility, specifically the bicycle and pedestrian modes. In the most treasured places in our communities we are free to roam on foot or on bike, and we are able to interact with our community in a deeper way than when we are in a vehicle. Across the country these places are enjoying renewed success in terms of real estate values, and are seeing increasing sales for businesses. In short, when we design our communities to be more human-focused and include active forms of mobility, it is not only good for us as people; it is good for business as well. 2. The Walton Family Foundation and its regional partners have funded and developed an incredibly successful trail program. What do you think is necessary to keep the momentum going in the region? Simply put, our region needs more people on bikes. This looks like people choosing to ride to the coffee shop, grocery store and to work or school. The region will take great strides if we can encourage more residents to get on a bike without feeling pressure to purchase expensive equipment and apparel. We also need on-street infrastructure. Building out a bicycle network or system by only building trails or greenways would be like building a road system by only building freeways. A successful system needs diversity in its offerings. One way to do this is by building other types of bicycle facilities including “on-street” facilities such as protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes can often be installed within the existing curb lines of existing streets at a fraction of the cost of building a greenway, and are convenient and easy to use. 3. What are the top three things you look for when first engaging a community interested in launching a mobility and/ or trail plan? An influential champion(s): City leaders face many competing priorities and are often tentative to spend their “political capital” on bike and pedestrian infrastructure without

broad community support. This is why grassroots support is so essential to these types of investments. A community champion can help facilitate a community level discussion and garner support that simply can’t occur at the city level. Political will: Any amount of infrastructure to be completed within a city will undoubtedly require city approval and funding. Ensuring that an administration is not only supportive, but is willing to invest financial and political capital on a project is essential to long term success. 4. What needs to accompany a comprehensive trail system or bike and pedestrian network to ensure the investment has the biggest impact? Equity: A community must be honest with itself and identify cultural and even physical barriers that may keep underserved populations from having access to or using the network. Strong communities focus on creating equity by reaching out to all populations and finding ways to eliminate barriers. Advocacy: Individuals or advocacy groups can engage in discussions with key decision makers, municipal leaders and the broader community. These groups can also help hold elected officials accountable and provide political support. Programming: Each community needs an individual or a group to organize rides, promote the system and find ways to encourage more people to get on a bike. Education: All modes of transportation need education for how to play nice and safe with each other. Start with bicycle education targeted at elementary schools. 5. What American cities have some of the best mobility systems that Arkansas might learn from? An indicator of success of an active mobility system is the percentage of its residents who are choosing to commute to work by bike or on foot. It’s no surprise that cities like Portland and Boulder continually rank near the top, nationally, in total bike commuters. While those larger cities are inspirational, I think we can learn the most from smaller cities such as Davis (population 66,000) and Palo Alto (population 66,000) in California that rank near the top of all cities in terms of total commutes by bikes.

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BEYOND DOGTOWN Developing the Argenta Experience BY DWAIN HEBDA

Plans for THRIVE’s new development of 164 apartment units in three-story, Colonialstyle brick buildings divided by a plaza-like street. The complex will be north, across the street from the Innovation Hub.

“A city’s downtown is its front porch and if you’re going to have a vibrant city, you’d better have a vibrant downtown. This is where the heartbeat is.” —­ Mayor Joe Smith


Rendering of the forthcoming Argenta Square Plaza.


n a recent springtime evening, just a stone’s throw from Mayor Joe Smith’s office at North Little Rock’s city hall, Argenta Historic District teems with life. A current of concert goers makes its way to Verizon Arena past bars and restaurants in renovated spaces bursting with people. Down the street, the hometown Travelers minor league baseball team is hosting rival Springfield and the illuminated Dickey-Stephens Park shines like a jewel set in red brick against the velvet sky. Meanwhile, in the surrounding neighborhood, apartment dwellers and homeowners drink in the India ink twilight from porches and balconies. You don’t have to be a fourth-generation North Little Rock native, as Mayor Smith is, to appreciate how far the city—and this area in particular—has come. But it takes someone with that degree of pent-up ambition to dream as audaciously as Smith does for his beloved hometown. “A city’s downtown is its front porch and if you’re going to have a vibrant city, you’d better have a vibrant downtown. This is where the heartbeat is,” he said. “Because it’s our front porch, it shows what kind of ideas we have and what our city wants to be, because that’s where everybody looks first.” The mayor’s visionary “porch” will soon take the form of stunning public and private development projects to infill vacant spaces, such as the one about to sprout from a former feed mill plot. The project includes a 164-unit upscale apartment complex by Bentonville-based developer THRIVE, broken into several buildings around a new cityowned outdoor entertainment space. Dubbed Argenta Square Plaza, the development is what the mayor called the neighborhood’s “wow factor.” It will include a water feature consisting of spray fountains for when the plaza is not in use, that disappear when the space is needed for seating or festival-style events, comfortably holding up to about 1,000 people.

“That’s going to be our crown, and when the space isn’t being used for a festival, it’ll be a beautiful place to look at, to visit, to hang out in or to sit at the restaurant and enjoy the fountains and the lights and all the stuff we’re going to incorporate into this thing,” Smith said. “We’re excited about what’s getting ready to happen in our downtown.” Just a couple decades ago, such excitement was all but unimaginable. For years, Argenta lived up to its derisive nickname “Dogtown,” a mutt of a neighborhood with mangy buildings sulking in the shadow of the arena. People came for the shows, but that was about it. While much was done behind the scenes to bring about the renaissance of today, progress was often hard for the average person to see. Not so today. “I come from a time when people from Little Rock really didn’t go to North Little Rock,” said John Chandler, North Little Rock native and early developer in the Argenta District, whose investment in the neighborhood he places at between $4 and $5 million. “Now, Argenta has come together to be a downtown destination with its own cool vibe.” Chandler’s projects have brought much of the retail and restaurants into the neighborhood, plus a smattering of mixed-use office and residential spaces. He’s also looking to put up a restaurant space next to the forthcoming plaza. He said the collision of such spaces makes Argenta unlike most other downtowns. “It’s a little bit more of a community than some other districts are because you have the residential component and the commercial component all mixed together,” he said. “Main Street is not just bars and restaurants; there are architects, lawyers, it’s got a little bit of a different feeling. It’s a very charming kind of hip, new place—a new neighborhood model.” As each piece came into place—organization of Downtown Boosters and Argenta Community Development Corporation, single and multifamily residential and finally commercial/retail— downtown began to BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 29


Plans for the Smartway LLC office, hotel and residential project.

“Main Street is not just bars and restaurants; there are architects, lawyers, it’s got a little bit of a different feeling. It’s a very charming kind of hip, new place—a new neighborhood model.” —John Chandler come more solidly into focus. The latest and largest stride yet is a $50 million development to include a 10-story, 244,000-square-foot office building; 92,000-square-foot hotel and 89,000-square-foot apartment building recently announced by Smartway LLC. “We’ve been looking the last couple years around the area,” said Doug Meyer, one of the partners behind the massive project. “There was this kind of buzz around the completion of the [Broadway] bridge that really got us interested in it.” Meyer said with the completion of the bridge, the partners saw a golden opportunity to build in the kind of walkable district that holds such appeal for Millennials. “Millennials think differently; they want a work-live-play kind of a home,” he said. “People want to live close to where they work, they want to play, they want biking and trails. North Little Rock has done a fabulous job on their parks and rec and their bike trails, where if you live overlooking the river down in Argenta, you jump on a bike and go miles and miles.” Investment hasn’t been limited to prospective residents, it’s also happened on a grand scale for the incumbent citizenry, most notably in the area of education. Greg Nabholz of Newmark Grubb 30 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

and Nabholz Properties in Conway, and a leading consultant in urban planning, lives in and has developed properties in Argenta. He said aside from the commercial and residential amenities, local school district improvements are also poised to pay big dividends for both students and economic development efforts for years to come. “It kind of goes unnoticed that the North Little Rock Public School System is finishing up a $260 million complete overhaul of every single school in the entire district,” he said. “That has, I think, started to make a lot of people really look at the opportunity for living in North Little Rock, and in Argenta especially, where they will be close to an elementary school as well as being very close to North Little Rock High School. “I think you’re going to see in the next five years—with facilities that are as good as anywhere in the country and the programs that they’re doing, working with places like the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub—the reputation of the North Little Rock School District skyrocket and be considered among the top in the nation. And with that, the interest of people wanting to live down here will increase exponentially. I think that’s really exciting,” Nabholtz said.

BUILDING BETTER COMMUNITIES conway | fayetteville | little rock | okc | rogers | russellville | tulsa civil engineering | surveying | architecture | planning | landscape architecture

WE GROW COMMUNITIES From working with new or existing companies to working with government leaders, we help our communities grow and prosper. Together, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas are your local energy partners.


BEYOND THE VISION Imagine Central Arkansas

Great places do not happen overnight. In fact, they are built one good decision at a time. Great cities and great regions are built the same way.


Imagine Central Arkansas is a blueprint for a better region developed by central Arkansas residents. The plan provides an ambitious vision for our region’s future. In it, you expressed a desire for choices: choice in how our region develops, choice in transportation, choice in housing; choices that provide opportunity and quality of life. But while the vision has been set regionally, it must be carried out, day in and day out, at the local level, each city in its own way.


ontinuing are still to y lower r region.


Past choices have pushed central Arkansas in an unaffordable direction. The sets of rules developed early last century have created suburban sprawl and interstate highway construction, and have produced cities that are increasingly unsustainable environmentally and financially. The “30 Crossing” project is a direct result of these rules and decades of what are now proving to be unsustainable development practices. Today’s decision makers are only responding to the results of policies long woven into the fabric of land development codes. Today’s region and its transportation choices are a natural consequence of polices that push residential, commercial, and other land uses far apart and requiring us to use cars as our only choice, on ever more congested highways, caught in a vicious cycle.

Source: AHTD

These old rules are still our policies. If we want a different future, we need a new set of rules to allow us to build a 21st century economy. And 21st century cities that can support it.


“First shape the rules of the game, then the rules shape the game” — Winston Churchill

21st century metropolitan areas must change to move forward. We need to harness the energy that comes from regional cooperation and boldly restructure practices still built for old technologies. We need to embrace smarter ways of living and working. We have already seen successes by isolated and voluntary examples. These are good. But to be competitive, we will be pushed to do more, do it more broadly and do it more boldly. This fall Metroplan will begin an update of Imagine Central Arkansas focusing on the steps that must be taken today to reach the vision tomorrow. You are invited to join us on this adventure.

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” — Japanese Proverb

IMAGINE THE FUTURE... START BUILDING IT TODAY. It’s coming faster than you think. Dare to be audacious.

Plan regionally. Build locally. Visit for more information and to see how you can continue helping to shape our region’s future.


Foxhole Public House in Bentonville.



1. Upon taking over leadership of ERC, you changed the approach to development the company had for the past two generations. Why and what was the process for change? The approach changed because we were aligning with a new vision. We decided to use what we learned from 60 years of business and incorporate it into a strategy we felt a new customer base would identify with. 2. What does ERC look for in a community prior to making an investment decision? We are more than excited to see a plan in place and the city or neighborhood committed to following it. We use a term at our organization called “Perpetual Beta.” This means that we are always testing and are prepared to fail quickly. Being one piece to accomplishing a plan is much more appealing to us now. 3. What role does design (architecture, landscape, engineering, etc.) play in your developments, and how does your new approach change a project pro forma from more traditional development? We have shifted the responsibilities of all consultants that are part of the team. Our new platform starts with building orientation; the pedestrian walk and scale as it relates to the surrounding buildings. We don’t underwrite until we feel these metrics

have been met first. The daily curriculum of utilizing what you have designed versus overamenitizing is where I want us to be. 4. What companies do you look to for inspiration and why? I look almost exclusively in the hospitality industry. The Bunkhouse Group in Austin is one of the best in designing an authentic experience. If there were rules in the hotel industry, they decided to ignore them and do what was true to themselves. 5. How does the concept of experience design play into your projects, and why is that important in your valuation calculations? Experience design is one of the most difficult pieces to master. The reason is that you must be willing to be in perpetual beta, and continually know who you are. Your product should be designed almost a year prior to ever executing on this strategy in multi-family and, even then, you may have to change. Our goal is to take people from human-doing to human-being in our design. Places where they can customize their experience and be in a state of mind where they want to. I’m not, and neither is the company, there yet, but we are failing as fast as we can to get there.

Office Equipment Print Management Document Management Network Management All Of The Above

BREACHING THE­INTERSTATE How SoMa and East Village Broke Through Concrete Barriers BY ROB MORITZ

(Above) Esse Purse Museum, operated by SoMa pioneering developer Anita Davis. (Below) Shops like The Green Corner Store bring character and walkability to this neighborhood south of Interstate 630.

Photo courtesy Nancy Nolan 36 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

Matt Foster’s mixed-use development in SoMa.


ast Village and SoMa, two areas on the periphery of the downtown Little Rock business district, are living proof that interstates, long considered barriers to community cohesiveness, are actually breachable under the right circumstances. Both districts had once been vibrant with manufacturing, retail and restaurants, only to lose that vitality when interstates were built around downtown Little Rock. “A lot of this goes back to the available inventory,” said Gabe Holmstrom, executive director of Downtown Little Rock Partnership. Discussing how the two areas have managed to redevelop across interstates, he said, “There are only so many of these types of buildings that are available, so there are only so many places that redevelopments like these can occur.” The resurgence of SoMa—Main Street south of Interstate 630— has actually been progressing for more than a decade, beginning with Anita Davis’ purchase of the Bernice Building at 1417 S. Main in 2004. The next year she bought the empty lot at 1401 S. Main. Davis said many, including herself, became interested in properties in SoMa because of the historic buildings and the eclectic, off-beat lifestyle of that area. Also, property along the Creative Corridor and the River Market downtown is expensive. Her first two purchases were a great opportunity, she said. “It never really felt like a risk. It felt like I was doing the right thing.” The vacant lot she bought was transformed into Bernice Gardens, a small community park with benches, plants and a rock formation, permanent and temporary sculptures and a sheltered structure. Along with offering people a tranquil place to visit and relax, it also is used for larger events and has become home to a regular vintage and crafts market, the Arkansas Cornbread Festival and more. Davis later purchased the Lincoln Building at 15th and Main streets, which is now The Green Corner Store & Soda Fountain, and a property across the intersection that once housed a dairy bar and is now home to the nationally acclaimed The Root Café.

Along with investing her money, Davis also worked to recruit businesses to SoMa, including Boulevard Bread Co. and USA Drug, now a Walgreens. Other businesses in the trendy shopping and dining area, which also has rentable living spaces available, are Loblolly Creamery, Moxy Modern Mercantile, Raduno Brick & Oven Barroom Restaurant and Davis’ own Esse Purse Museum. The award-winning quarterly magazine Oxford American has offices in SoMa, and South on Main, an upscale restaurant and entertainment venue, moved into the space that for decades was the biggest draw in SoMa, Juanita’s restaurant. Community Bakery, longtime tenant of SoMa, continues to remain popular. “I think as more people become attracted to the area you will begin to see more developments,” said developer Matt Foster, who has announced plans to construct a $4.4 million retail and residential center at the intersection of 15th and Main streets. The yet unnamed 30,000-square-foot mixed-use development will include retail space on the first floor and condominiums on the second floor. Each of the condos will have a roof terrace, he said. “We need more shopping opportunities, and I saw this as an opportunity,” said Foster, who lives in the area. Also planned on the south side of I-630 is a narrow park that will stretch six blocks on the edge of SoMa from the McArthur Park walking bridge east to Scott Street. Carol Worley, who is partner in a law firm in the 1300 block of S. Main, said the park will include a number of sculptures, mainly from Arkansas artists, and will be named Unity Park because that community was divided when I-630 was built. “It’s going to be absolutely gorgeous, and a beautiful gateway,” she said. Students at the University of Arkansas Landscape Architect Department worked on concepts for the park, she said, which are now being reviewed by Little Rock parks department and worked into a masterplan.


(Above) The old Sterling Paint building before renovations, which will be called Paint Factory and serve as the anchor to Cromwell Architect’s East Village redevelopment. (Below) Rendering of the forthcoming eStem Public Charter School in East Village designed by WER Architects/Planners.

The redevelopment of East Village, on the other hand, has been much faster and is seen as a natural extension of the River Market, the Clinton Presidential Library and Heifer International developments just east of Interstate 30. The neighborhood of rundown buildings, manufacturing warehouses and repair shops didn’t even have a name until the Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s annual meeting in March 2016. East of I-30 along the Arkansas River, the Clinton Library, which opened at the end of the River Market in 2004, really revived interest in an area once home to rundown warehouses, industrial offices and a few eclectic clubs. Most long-time residents were only aware of that area if they used Sixth Street to get to the airport. In 2004, Heifer International opened a new headquarters for the global charity just southeast of the Clinton Library, and in 2010, Rock Town Distillery opened at 1216 E. Sixth St., in a 1950s-era warehouse. Since then two breweries, Lost 40 and Rebel Kettle, have opened nearby. In 2015, eStem Public Charter School announced plans to open a new elementary/middle school near Heifer International. Also that year, Cromwell architectural firm purchased the Paint Factory at Sixth Street and Shall Avenue. Chris Moses, president of Moses Tucker Real Estate, said once the 38 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

“Our hope is that area becomes a 24/7 walkable, sustainable environment.” —CHRIS MOSES

Paint Factory is refurbished and an addition is in place, Cromwell will move its Little Rock headquarters there and offer the remaining space for lease as retail, restaurants and apartments. Lost 40 and Rebel Kettle “are drawing customers to the area who have never been there before,” Moses said. “They see the opportunity, and I think that is what is probably sparking a lot of the interest. When you see good food and beverage, and you’ve already got institutional, the housing will come next and the entertainment always comes as well,” he said. Moses said he expects future projects—restaurants and lofts, among other things—to be announced for East Village. “Our hope is that area becomes a 24/7 walkable, sustainable environment,” he said. Worley said what makes SoMa and East Village so inviting for shoppers and new residents is that they are easily accessible from the downtown business district and are unique. “I think [people] like the concept of having everything right there,” he said. “They are very walkable. I think the downtown concept is really picking up.” Foster said he expects downtown retail and residential development across the barriers of I-30 and I-630 to continue. “There is big interest in downtown development, and development will continue to spur outward … outside the corridor of the downtown district,” he said.




I-30 EXPANSION UPDATE New Research and Proposed Plans For the Controversial Stretch of Interstate BY AMY GORDY

Presently, there are four build options on the table for I-30:

6-Lane with C/D Lanes with a Single Point Urban Interchange

6-Lane with C/D Lanes with a Split Diamond

8-Lane General Purpose with a Split Diamond Interchange

8-Lane General Purpose with a Single Point Urban Interchange


Images courtesy AHTD & Metroplan


he $650 million 30 Crossing project has been hotly debated in Central Arkansas. Due to congestion and deterioration of on the highly traveled, six-lane, seven-mile stretch of Interstate 30 from U.S. Highway 67 in North Little Rock to Interstate 530 in Little Rock, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has proposed plans to expand the road, invited ideas from community members and held several public meetings in an effort to reach a decision on what’s to be done—if anything. There is support for the rebuild and expand movement for its potential to improve mobility and safety, though many still oppose widening for fear of its impact on businesses and the atmospheres of downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.



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Faulkner County

Little Rock Urbanized Area 2010

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Pulaski County

Jacksonville Sherwood

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Little Rock

Lonoke County

Saline County Bryant

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§ ¦ ¨ 30

10 Miles

“The six-lane with C/D lanes split diamond has received the most support from public comment for a build alternative,” said Benjamin Browning, Alternative Project Delivery Director at AHTD. This design allows for three through lanes in each direction with two additional lanes serving as decision lanes to feed into collector/distributor lanes across the Arkansas River Bridge and through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. Collector/ distributor lanes are separated from main lanes by a barrier, operate at a lower speed and connect to the general purpose lanes through interchange ramps. Some downtown merchants are also starting to come around to the idea. Don Dugan, owner of Dugan’s Pub said, “The six lane c/d split diamond design option seems to be the one that improves traffic flow downtown, opens up green space that will attract people to the area and creates a more pedestrianfriendly, livable city. Additionally, the split diamond design will be the quickest one to construct, resulting in less disruption for our day-to-day business.” Many still advocate against widening the interstate, citing the improvements as unnecessary to ease minimal rush hour traffic. Greg Nabholtz, a developer in Argenta, sees some advantages to the proposed plan, but advocates firmly against widening I-30. “The bridge needs to be replaced. It was built in the 60s and it’s time, but the part that doesn’t make sense to me is widening it. We need to learn from other big cities who have stopped widening freeways because they know it doesn’t work. I laugh at our rush hour because it’s really not an issue. Even when the Broadway Bridge was shut down people could manage. We need to use the money we would spend on the added lanes and improve arterial streets and transit issues to handle the increase in traffic,” Nabholtz said. Studies are still underway to examine all the effects expanding the interstate could have on the region. Metroplan—in operation since 1955—consults, plans and coordinates among local governments and with the state highway department. Metroplan’s board, made up of city and county officials from the five Central Arkansas counties, is overseeing the 30 Crossing project. Executive director Tab Townsell has brought to light some new research Metroplan has uncovered regarding the density of the population in the urbanized area—which is defined by the Census Bureau as land with a population density over 1,000 42 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

people per square mile. Little Rock’s urbanized area extends from Benton to Cabot. “Little Rock ranked 318 in density—the densest was Los Angeles, and least dense was Hickory, North Carolina. Now, if you look at [Federal Highway Administration] statistics, and include the urbanized areas, in persons per freeway mile Little Rock came in fourth lowest in the nation. That means Little Rock has the fourth lowest number of people per freeway mile, which says we are investing a lot in freeways per our population. That will hopefully be some eye-opening information for decision-makers,” Townsell said. Townsell worries that expanding I-30 will only put a Band-Aid on a problem, where thinking in a more regional manner by improving main arterial streets could ease traffic issues for the long term. “We need the tools to allow us to be more regionally thinking. Unless we start putting policies in place now that will bear fruit later, we will be doing this again in 10 years.” Metroplan research planner Jonathan Lupton, who compiled the new information, echoes Townsell’s sentiments. “Dave Ward Drive in Conway is a classic example of developing arterial streets. It was introduced as an experiment and it did well. It moves a lot of traffic fast, and it’s not as intrusive as a freeway—it allows a city to be a city. Arterial streets can be walkable and pedestrian-friendly,” Lupton said. Lupton also worries about the effects the freeway widening will have on downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. “The question is how much damage will it do to downtown? As a planner, I know visual cues matter and this will not be good. But, I can also play the devil’s advocate and say that the freeway has made downtown accessible to more people.” Browning anticipates a decision on the preferred alternative for the 30 Crossing project to come late this year, and for construction to start in early 2019. “All Metroplan can do is call balls and strikes,” Townsell said. “There will be some happy and some not. In the meantime we are trying to design, envision and achieve a better region, and we’d like to do everything we can now and as early as possible to make sure we have more options on the table if and when this comes up again. Even the highway department will tell you they can’t build their way out of congestion. They’ll also tell you they have to deal with what it is, not what we wish it was.”

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DEVELOPMENT’S HIGHEST CALLING Spotlight on Adaptive Reuse and Infill Projects BY WARD DAVIS


erhaps real estate developments that add the highest value to their community are adaptive reuse and infill projects. Adaptive reuse essentially means taking an existing building and expanding its useful life by repurposing it to a different use or set of uses. Adaptive reuse is particularly valuable for saving historic buildings and adding new life to downtowns. The classic example of adaptive reuse is taking an old warehouse and making loft apartments. Adaptive reuse can take a variety of interesting forms, however. My partners and I are currently in construction on the adaptive reuse of a historic warehouse grocery—The Dollar Saver building­—in downtown Rogers, which will include a coffee shop and roastery, two restaurants and 11 two-story, one-bedroom apartments. Infill development involves building new construction on unoccupied property in areas that have already largely been built out. Infill properties can include those that have never been built on, properties where the original structure is gone, or vastly underutilized areas such as parking lots in downtowns. Infill projects can add a huge boost to the vitality of a downtown while also making it much more inviting to pedestrians. For example, by lining a parking lot with a mixed-use building including retail/office on the ground floor and apartments above, the street becomes more interesting to people walking by, more people live in the area to support downtown restaurants and businesses, the parking lot is hidden from sight and gets used when it would normally be empty (night), and the tax base for the city improves dramatically while essentially no more infrastructure is brought online. Adaptive reuse and infill development are not without their struggles. Regulatory oversight is particularly rigorous, land aggregation is difficult, and construction surprises are constant. Thoughtful developers, however, can add greatly to their towns by recognizing these hidden gems and giving them new life. 44 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

The Dollar Saver building in Rogers, under development by High Street Real Estate.




411 UNION IN JONESBORO Developer: Mike and Kristina Ebbert Architect: Jim Little

Mike and Kristina Ebbert saved the building from demolition, which carried historical significance as the home to Jonesboro City Water and Lights in the early 1900s. The Ebberts purchased the property and renovated it, creating five lofts and a business with more than 50 employees.

723 CENTRAL AVE. IN HOT SPRINGS Developer: Jason Taylor Architect: Harris Architecture

This seven-story structure was built in 1909 as the Citizen’s National Bank and has been vacant since 1978. It was purchased in 2015 and renovations have begun to transform it into a multi-use facility that will include a bistro-style restaurant on the first floor, Legorias Rhythm and Rocks Jazz Bistro on the second floor, a high-tech office tenant on the third floor and condos, including a seventh-floor penthouse, on the remaining floors. 411 Union was home to Eden Medical Spa and Noah the Children’s Boutique before it suffered a catastrophic fire in the summer of 2015.

JLOFTS IN CONWAY Developer: Salter Properties Architect: Larry Kester, Architects Collective, Tulsa, OK

The JLofts at Smith and Spencer Streets is an infill project taking advantage of a very small piece of land sandwiched between two existing properties. The four-story development will consist of 21 loft-style apartments.


1894 CITY MARKET IN TEXARKANA Developer: David Peavy Architect: Fennell Purifoy Architects Developer David Peavy is renovating the last standing turn-of-the-century structure on Front Street in Texarkana into the multi-use development. 1894 City Market will house an art gallery, apartments and restaurant.

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The Texas Produce Company was built in 1894, then became Ritchie Grocery in the 1940s. Parts of the renovated 1894 City Market are slated to open this fall.

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l Dorado Festivals & Events, a mission-driven 501(c)3 company, saw the need in El Dorado’s historic downtown for an entertainment district and put into motion an $80 million plan that will begin to come to fruition when phase one of the Murphy Arts District opens in September. Nationally-recognized architects Westlake Reed Leskosky helped craft the masterplan, which includes music venues, playscapes for children, restaurants and green spaces. Phase one includes: The Griffin Restaurant This historic gas station and former automotive sales center, built in the early 1930s, has been transformed into a farm-to-table gastropub and cabaret with seating for up to 300 guests.

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The Griffin Performance Hall Directly behind the restaurant, in the original mechanic’s shop, is the Griffin Performance Hall with a capacity for 2,400 seated guests or more than 3,000 for general admission. It will be a music venue and multi-purpose event center. The Amphitheater The Amphitheater will have a capacity to host 7,000 patrons. It will be home to music festivals, outdoor film screenings, a seasonal farmers market and park space to be enjoyed year-round by residents. The Playscape This two-acre children’s playground contains ADA accessible play equipment, educationally driven thematic decor tied to the region and a splash pad for use in summer months. The park will be open daily at no cost to visitors.

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DESIGNING IN THE DELTA The Journey of a Landscape Architect Working to Rebuild a Delta Town BY MARTIN L. SMITH

Rendering of the Wynne Public Square farmers market to be completed in the fall.


Smith with his sons, Whitfield and August, in front of their renovated family home in Birdeye.


t was 2003, and after cycling through the countryside of Scotland and staying in 500-year-old homes, I looked at my wife, Kara, and said, “Let’s move back to Birdeye, Ark., and save my ancestors’ home built in 1903.” The home had recently turned 100 and really didn’t have a future. Kara was all for it. We were living in Little Rock and about to move to the Arkansas Delta, which everyone else seemed to be fleeing. What’s even better is the fact that I am a landscape architect! Sure, everyone in the Arkansas Delta knows what a landscape architect does, right? You have a pickup truck, some equipment, a lawn mower and you are a hot commodity ready to go to work. Shortly after I left my hometown of Wynne in 1990, the city’s historic train station was demolished. When I returned in 2007 (after four years of remolding the 100-year-old home, 15 miles away in Birdeye), I finally got a chance to see what all had changed since my departure. The downtown was empty, historic buildings were crumbling and we had a five-lane thoroughfare splitting our neighborhoods with no sidewalks or street trees. There were many billboards and signs advertising fast food, the agriculture industry and, for that matter, anything of convenience. On the bright side, the school district still had a solid public school that attracted families and was a staple for the community. It appeared the city had quit building sidewalks in the 1940s, and kids didn’t have an option to ride a bike or walk to school—that was in a town of 10,000 people for crying out loud! How could this be? I did some investigating and attended the city council and quorum

court meetings to discover the community was simply trying to exist and not advance. The grit and character of the people had kept the community on solid footing, but it was very apparent to me that it could be so much more. So what does a landscape architect do in the Delta? At first I didn’t figure there was any work for my profession, and for the most part I was right on the mark. I dug a little deeper and became determined to find opportunities to work in the community, and do projects that would actually improve the “quality of life.” The harsh reality comes quickly though when there is no money available in budgets for these types of projects. I am talking about the simple things in life—sidewalks, parks with appropriate play equipment, street trees, bicycle lanes or trails and, heaven forbid, revitalization of our historic downtown! We needed cash to leverage into state and federal grants—everyone wants to help the Delta, but groups carelessly toss money from the outside hoping that it finds its roots. Unfortunately, it hasn’t and the answer is commitment from within this special place, to dig in and save it. Cross County’s economic development department was losing its steam, and citizens were not seeing anything being accomplished with their tax money. Has anyone heard this story before? Don’t you have to build the basic infrastructure to create “place” before you see these antics pay off? Well a group of us had an idea, let’s place a .375-cent tag on parks and recreation out of the 1-cent economic development tax. The novel BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 51


(Above) Rendering of the Wynne Public Square splash pad. (Below) An empty lot on the corner of Front Street and Merriman Avenue will be home to the city’s new Public Square.

idea was to build something every year with public funds so the community could actually see it, feel it and enjoy it, right? Wow! It worked. Five years after creating a department of parks and recreation and safe routes to school master plan, $3 million was collected from the tax that leveraged $1.5 million in grants. That’s $4.5 million dollars to make a direct effect on healthy living in the Delta! I am very fortunate to have the ability to work on many wonderful projects throughout this very diverse state. I grew up in the Delta and left the Delta like many before me, but I will never leave again. I love the soul of this region, along with the character and integrity of the inspiring people that have stayed and called this place home. We must embrace and activate this place. Do this and we become that destination others want to experience.


“I love the soul of this region, along with the character and integrity of the inspiring people that have stayed and called this place home.”

1. What is your design philosophy? I believe that good design has the power to impact any community, particularly the overlooked small rural towns in our state. An architect should be a leader in the process of a community finding and celebrating its soul. In that role, an architect and design team must practice with great respect for the current and future users who will experience the environment, which they cultivate together. I recently wrote a column in The Lonoke Democrat, which proposed, “The size of our community may be the key to ensuring that [we create] environments of healing and redemption. In a small community where we all share the same few square miles, we have a very real, unavoidable opportunity to grow closer in relationship with one another. Our ability for greater influence is magnified.” 2. What are the primary functions of relevant landscape design? Though my profession is architecture, I have a great desire to elevate the profession of my colleagues in landscape architecture. I’m particularly mindful that the success of their designs is highly dependent upon context, connection and material. While this is common across design fields, I subscribe to the philosophy of practice held by local firm Ecological Design Group, led by Martin Smith and Tanner Weeks. The landscape architects and designers at EDG understand that a relevant, meaningful landscape design will be mindful of its ecological and cultural context. It respectfully connects the human community to the ecology and cultural backstory specific to that place, and the material of the design will be an extension of its topography, visually enhancing that extension with native plantings and forms. 3. What is the most challenging aspect of your work? Perhaps the most challenging aspect of an architect’s work is the desire to deeply connect with the needs of a community and client with their design solution. In all of our listening and immersing ourselves in the culture and context of a client’s vision, there is a persistent inner feeling that genuinely desires the client will “like” our work and

connect with the solution in the way the design team did. I am inspired by the approach of my friends at Thrive Center, who are mission-driven graphic designers in Helena. I have learned from them the exhilaration of making this connection, though it can be difficult to achieve no matter the creative discipline. I believe when the client’s voice is involved throughout the design process, the solution has a much better chance of resonating. With that resonance comes a greater likelihood the design may stand the test of time. 4. What is unique to working in the Delta? My family lives in Lonoke, on the edge of the Delta. I recently concluded my service on the Lonoke Planning and Zoning Commission, where we worked to introduce the concept of placemaking to our community. I’m learning that placemaking in a rural context embodies a promise of redemption for our overlooked locations. In an area as complex as the Delta, there is a particularly great potential for healing, as neighborhoods come together via shared spaces and experiences. A vibrant conversation is underway in Lonoke through which we are discovering what planner Victor Dover calls our “local distinctiveness.” This uniqueness may be found in connecting historic downtown Lonoke to our gateways and destinations via expanded recreational trails. 5. How are new technologies informing your craft? There is an aspect of our practice that has become more efficient with building information modeling (BIM) and other three-dimensional modeling tools. I feel the most helpful contribution is recent advancements in capturing both natural and artificial light quality via computer-generated deliverables. The ability to depict a design at different times throughout the day can imply a vibrant district full of activity and engagement and help a community envision new patterns of use. Even so, I think some designers may now be losing our fascination with the “photorealistic” capabilities of these tools and returning to hand-rendered deliverables, which are instead assisted by these modeling technologies.

Example of BIM generated rendering.




FOOD, FORM AND FUNCTION AT 8TH STREET MARKET Transforming a Tyson Chicken Plant into a Vibrant, Innovative Hub in Bentonville BY BONNIE BAUMAN


he Vine,” the rusted steel canopy that wraps around the 8th Street Market, is a masterpiece of form and function. Designed by local artist, Dayton Castleman, it offers a large swath of protection from the elements; a perforated, pixilated map of the waterways of Arkansas— even the modern conveniences of power outlets and microphone jacks. But perhaps most impressive of all, it provides a glimpse into the tale of how the boxy, gray concrete building it enfolds—a building that in a former life was a Tyson crispy chicken plant—became a sleek, state-of-the-art culinary school/future restaurant and retail hub. “The Vine very much evokes that old piece of agricultural equipment that’s sitting in the field,” explained Brad Kingsley, an architect with Hufft Projects, the Kansas City-based architecture firm that spearheaded the effort to repurpose the old Tyson plant. “It’d been abandoned and was rusting out. Then nature took it over wrapping itself around it, preserving it, but making it into something new at the same time.” The force that transformed a food processing plant built in the 1960s into the 8th Street Market had nothing to do with Mother Nature; rather it was a thoughtful rendering of design elements, and as The Vine itself illustrates, a major undercurrent of that design was multifunction. The 8th Street Market is meant to serve many masters, both literal masters—with the different tenants who will gradually fill up the 80,000-square-foot building—and figurative masters with the variety of different aspirations tied to the space. 54 | BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING

Take for example, the desire for the 8th Street Market to serve as a food-centric hub where community and collaboration are continuously on tap. “The building is to act as an ecosystem of people who are supporting each other,” explained Karin Endy, the Brooklyn-based consultant who’s been involved with the project from its inception. “For instance, the vendors are a resource for the culinary students to support their learning, but the students can also work for those vendors.” Brightwater, Northwest Arkansas Community College’s revamped culinary program, serves as the anchor tenant of the space, taking up about 40 percent of the building. To date, in addition to the culinary school, Hello Cocoa, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Bike Rack Brewery, Yeyo’s Mexican Grill and a wine shop run by sommelier James King have signed on as tenants. One feature designed to help organically grow the ecosystem of support between these tenants is an expansive hallway that connects the vendor spaces to a few of the culinary school’s kitchens. Not only does this hallway offer direct access between the vendors and the culinary school’s students and staff, the glass walls of both the culinary school’s kitchens and the vendor spaces have the potential to offer direct lines of vision between the different endeavors, making for the kind of friendly familiarity that can ultimately breed connection. In addition to fostering collaboration, there are several different design elements throughout the building that are meant to help nudge community building.

(Opposite page) An outdoor patio/classroom space where local food trucks will be invited to park. (Below) A view of the west side of the building offers covered patio seating and an entrance to The Market.

The very act of curating the tenant list played a role here. Indeed, typically, if you build a biergarten, as Bike Rack has done in front of its brewery and tap room, they will come. The same can be said for wine, authentic Mexican food and chocolate. On top of all of that, the entrance to Brightwater opens up into a large, open-to-the-public “commons area” where several tables sit beneath a dazzling ceiling installation of undulating plates mimicking the topography of Northwest Arkansas. A colorful mural, fresh flowers and occasional refreshments from the culinary kitchens set a vibrant, welcoming tone. And thanks to a few retracting walls, the already roomy commons area can be enlarged, creating a venue where a few hundred people can hobnob comfortably during an event or a sit-down dinner. One of those classrooms that has the capacity to spill out into the commons area happens to be the beverage arts classroom, which with its fully stocked bar will surely be a welcome addition to any event. “The space was designed to have a big mix of things going on,” explained Glenn Mack, the executive director of Brightwater. “High school field trips, recreational public cooking classes, students in their credential and degree classes, professional development workshops and event venue rental can all happen simultaneously.” In front of the southeast façade of the building, under The Vine, there is space designated for an outdoor market. In addition, in front of Brightwater sits an outdoor classroom/patio and a space reserved for a few food trucks and a community garden

and greenhouse. These outdoor features of the building, like the biergarten and any outdoor seating that the individual tenants offer, will further serve to activate the space and foster a sense of community and activity. While community building and collaboration in and of themselves are worthy undertakings, 8th Street Market has yet another purpose: to serve as a catalyst for the community development of the southeast corner of downtown Bentonville, a.k.a. “The Market District.” “The 8th Street Market was the cornerstone of that plan,” said Troy Galloway, community and economic development director for the City of Bentonville. “The type of development that’s going on there contributes to workforce development, it contributes to our local economy and it contributes to the aesthetic value of that part of our downtown.” There is a spot under The Vine against the southeast side of the building that faces out across a field to an old Kraft plant, a 63,000-square-foot space that the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be transforming into a contemporary arts space. To the left is 8th Street, which will someday be a busy fivelane connection to the highway, and to the right is an artery of the Razorback Greenway. Nearby is a large, gravel placeholder where another restaurant space can be added onto the 8th Street Market. “So there’s a lot of potential on this side of the site,” pointed out Brad Kingsley of Hufft. “The idea was that The Vine either starts or ends right here on this corner, pulling you in.” BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 55

The streetscape of Uptown Fayetteville.



1. Describe the Modus Studio approach to design. Our process at Modus Studio is intensive, sustainably focused, design driven and without preconceived notions. The beginning of any project is to first seek to understand: the people, the place and the forces of the site from a historical, environmental and creative perspective. In the modern media world it is tempting to fall into the lure of iconography and the flash of other cool projects found on the architectural and social platforms we follow. However, our process recognizes these influences and attempts to distill trends in form and materials into meaningful architecture for this place and time.

development within a suburban context using suburban typologies (such as the garden apartment) while highlighting connectivity to the Razorback Greenway and honoring the almighty automobile. It can be a tricky balance—part of a new model. Recognizing that the spaces between the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves, we have put a lot of effort into developing the architecture and site as cohesively as possible with our consultants, all within the tight margins that exist with private development budgets. The richness of the forms, materials, spaces and community amenities (not just for tenants but great retail and food options too) that are resolving internally and externally at the project are really going to be a positive game changer for uptown Fayetteville. I think people are, and will be, amazed by the crafting of this new model for placemaking.

4. Does the role of the architect change in a design/build shop? If so, how? I think the role of the architect is expanded when there is a strong presence of a thinking/making philosophy. We feel more empowered in our ability to test ideas and control craft when we have the ability to see things built by our own hands. I am speaking collectively about Modus Studio and Modus Shop, as it takes a lot of really cool and highly talented people to make 2. What are the steps in your design these things happen. We underscore mutability process, and how are they organized? We and elasticity as a positive attribute, so in the have invested a lot of time in organizing and past few years being able to work at all scales streamlining the tools we use during design. of design and fabrication, from tap handles The belief is that if we don’t spend our to super-modded Sprinter vans to large-scale, brain power having to reinvent our internal mixed-use multifamily projects, we feel that our protocols on each project, then we can spend role is quite evolved and of great value to our our brain power on what is essential: ideas clients and community. and quality. Projects typically begin with the charrette, 5. Describe your dream project. Honestly, the collaborative process of bringing all the it changes. Museum? Skyscraper? House ideas out to test and explore. This process cantilevered off the side of an Ozark bluff? All gives the entire team—from designers to of those sound fun, but really, more mixed-use owners to builders—early buy-in to the projects—the stuff cities are made of—that concepts and trajectory for the project. Then allow more options for culture, education, we can sketch, model, render, communicate innovation, art, food, hospitality and a stronger and craft architectural projects with the best sense of place. These aren’t just buzzwords, they ideas from everyone as a guide. are tangible and fun things to bring together. We want to work on projects where all of the above 3. What has been your most challenging can come together in a sustainable place (and I project to date? The Uptown project don’t just mean green). This is, we believe, what in Fayetteville is probably one of our building in Northwest Arkansas is about right most challenging and rewarding. The now. This place has seen the light and we are glad mantra of the project is to create an urban to be part of the spectrum.


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TACTICAL URBANISM How Fayetteville is Crafting a Movement BY GINA NIEDERMAN


he tactical urbanism movement is catching fire as cities and citizens test strategies to make urban spaces more accessible and enjoyable to the public. Northwest Arkansas is leading tactical urbanism efforts in the state. These efforts grew out of the April 2016 Placemakers Summit where The Street Plans Collaborative—an award-winning, nationally recognized urban planning, design and research firm—presented numerous examples of tactical urbanism popularized within their book, Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change. In November 2016, the city of Fayetteville and Street Plans held a workshop to examine how tactical urbanism could be used to test improvements in connectivity between the Razorback Greenway and downtown Fayetteville. Participants chose to test a mountable mini-roundabout at a small, urban four-way stop intersection for a period of two months. According to city officials, the goal was to measure how changes to the intersection impacted pedestrian and bicycle comfort as well as vehicular compliance and usability. City employees led the day-long installation with help from volunteers. The colorful roundabout livened up the intersection, delighting many. Others expressed dismay at its presence, which they saw as unnecessary and difficult to navigate. At the end of the demonstration period, the city concluded that the particular intersection was not the most appropriate for the mini-roundabout and decided to consider alternate strategies to improve connectivity. This is a great example of using tactical urbanism to “test before you invest.” As the paint was drying on Fayetteville’s mini-roundabout experiment, a community organization in South Fayetteville, Energize Southside, began planning its own tactical urbanism project. Project leaders included urban planners, architects, a policy analyst and an elected official. The city’s efforts inspired the group to test citizen-led tactical urbanism. Energize Southside focused on the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Wood Avenue, where popular food truck The Green Goat serves food from the front lawn of the chef’s residence. The demonstration tested strategies to make the site more accessible and enjoyable to the neighborhood. Strategies included a foodthemed crosswalk to aid in pedestrian safety, a bike rack to encourage bike traffic, several parallel parking spaces along Wood Avenue to shift parking off-site and encourage pedestrian use of the green space, and a colorful bumpout to slow turning traffic and provide a visual cue to protect on-street parking. To maintain momentum, Energize Southside implemented the project without asking for city permission. At the same time, the group relied on their understanding of city code to define what they considered to be a safe project. They felt confident this demonstration would inform city efforts to develop a formal system for encouraging


and supporting tactical urbanism. Project leaders and volunteers installed the demonstration on Feb. 25, and Energize Southside obtained an event permit for a “block party” to close off Wood Avenue as they worked. The group borrowed, reused and upcycled materials to reduce costs. The total project cost was just $346, namely for paint. Participants bonded over transforming the intersection into a vibrant, human-centered space and received a steady stream of thanks from passersby. Two months after the installation, the creative crosswalk and colorful bumpout have become symbols of neighborhood pride, and the parking spaces are in steady use. On Saturdays, Erin Walsh, The Green Goat chef, hosts a pop-up market on the lawn, and the site is becoming a neighborhood hub. “We have connected neighbors to each other,” Walsh said. The project was not without its complications, however. Immediately after the installation, the city approached Energize Southside with safety and liability concerns, in particular changing the layout and function of city streets, which is potentially dangerous and illegal. The city advised the group to provide a plan for review before engaging in any future projects. In subsequent communications with the city, Energize Southside asked that the demonstration remain in place for a three-month test period, which ended May 25. Project leaders are collecting data to evaluate the project and will communicate findings to the city upon completion of the demonstration. Meanwhile, community members have approached project leaders with many new ideas for tactical urbanism projects across South Fayetteville and the downtown area. There have been discussions over additional crosswalks along Martin Luther King Boulevard, intersection repair in front of a neighborhood community center, swap meets, a bike repair and exchange program, and wayfinding signs that encourage walking to neighborhood businesses and sites of interest. People are ready to act. A citizen-led, city-supported tactical urbanism program can lead to meaningful social investment in the neighborhoods that need it most. City support might include reaching out to community activists to identify opportunities, providing materials or grant money for demonstrations, and/or educating citizens on how to safely plan, implement and monitor projects. The city of Fayetteville is currently developing a tactical urbanism permit process to allow community groups to initiate projects. With its interest and experience in tactical urbanism, Fayetteville is well positioned to capitalize on this wave of excitement and civic engagement, and the state is well positioned to learn from Fayetteville’s successes and challenges as the movement continues to grow.

(Above) Fayetteville’s miniroundabout experiment. (Below, from left) Energize Southside’s crosswalk at Martin Luther King Boulevard before; and after the design was implemented.


Three Sisters development in Fayetteville.



1. Describe your architecture design philosophy and process. I always begin the design process by looking around at what is already there. Much of what I am trying to accomplish is to understand the very best of the existing built environment and to emulate those excellent buildings. I always begin with hand drawings and sketches and only translate the design into the computer once the aesthetic details are totally worked out. I also have a philosophy of creating new buildings that both maintain connections to the past and carry those ideas into the future in a genuine way. I’m really suspicious of trendy, cutting-edge architecture that isn’t about anything other than the creativity of the architect and the forbearance of the client. 2. What inspires you, and how is that integrated into your designs? I am inspired by the great cities and towns of Europe and the United States. I love to travel and always have a sketchbook and camera. I also have a vast library of books about historic and contemporary architecture that I can rely on to fill in the gaps of my personal experience. I am fairly literal about bringing beautiful details and decorative elements from the past into my work. I find that most people respond very favorably to them, just as I do. Nature is very important as well, and I love very small parks, private courtyards and hidden gardens. 3. Why is architecture and design important in crafting great cities? The great cities and towns always feature many beautiful and durable buildings. What we all know that works is a series of wellproportioned streets and squares that are lined with attractive and well-crafted buildings. I tend to like the places that consist of mostly three- to five-story buildings that have been built incrementally over time. People prefer buildings with large windows, delicate cast iron balconies and dramatic roofs and towers. I see too many of our cities

being overcome with dreary, flatroofed buildings that feature walls of reflective glass or blank concrete surfaces. 4. How would you describe New Urbanism to someone new to the idea? The only way I know how to describe New Urbanism is to say that it is the study of all the human settlement techniques that have ever been successful strained through the filter of how most people live in 21st century America. Which basically means, can you deal with the movement and storage of cars in a sensible and elegant manner? The car is such an amazing and accessible technology that we have to be very talented and thoughtful to design in such a way that the automobile doesn’t overwhelm the streets and squares of our city. America had a long period between 1945 and the end of the 20th century during which we let the traffic planners and the large-scale real estate developers design our cities based on speed of travel and vast efficiencies of scale. What we are finding is that places created with those values aren’t particularly nice places to be, nor have they consistently maintained their financial value. 5. What are the greatest challenges to the future of Arkansas cities and towns in the next 20 years? Arkansas cities and towns have to understand that there are incredible opportunities to build an economy that is based on both the region and the neighborhood. Regional economy is critical because we need to be successful on a global scale, competing with other regions for commercial advantage. If our region is weak and the cities and towns within it spend their energy squabbling with each other, then we won’t thrive. The neighborhood is incredibly important, because that is where we live and work. We need to shift attention to creating housing that meets the preferences of those who want to live in walkable, urban environments.


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CHAMPIONING HIGH-QUALITY DESIGN The Walton Family Foundation Partners with Local Organizations to Build on Positive Momentum Through the Design Excellence Program. By Karen Minkel


TheaterSquared’s designs for a new 51,500-square-foot facility in downtown Fayetteville. BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 63

CHAMPIONING HIGH-QUALITY DESIGN The 44,000-square-foot Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center is under construction in downtown Bentonville.

The independent Thaden School in downtown Bentonville will have indoor and outdoor spaces for students.



rom Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to Thorncrown Chapel, it’s clear that thoughtfully designed spaces have enhanced the lives of Northwest Arkansas residents. Targeted investments in high-quality design will help protect and enhance the region’s built environment and make it an even better place to call home. Established in 2015, the Walton Family Foundation’s Design Excellence Program was created to elevate design at all levels. By providing financial support to entities such as school districts, municipalities and nonprofits for the design of buildings and public spaces, the Walton Family Foundation is striking the right balance between natural and built environments, while complementing the region’s rich architectural history. The organization has searched locally and nationally for talented professionals who can think innovatively about design, but also work within the existing urban fabric. To date, it has developed a pool of more than 50 architecture and landscape architecture firms representing 15 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Denmark. These resources have helped seven local partners demonstrate how good design can improve both function and the existing urban fabric. SETTING A STAGE FOR THE ARTS The arts play a leading role in building livable communities. Through the Design Excellence Program, local cultural organizations will use design to increase capacity and elevate their work. Take, as an example, TheatreSquared in downtown Fayetteville. Recognized by the American Theatre Wing as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theaters, TheatreSquared was quickly outgrowing its home in the Walton Art Center’s Nadine Baum Studio. In partnership with Marvel Architects, TheatreSquared developed creative designs for a 51,500-squarefoot world-class performing arts space that will further downtown walkability and encourage residents and visitors to take advantage of the city’s open spaces. The Rogers Historical Museum was facing similar capacity challenges. It entertained a variety of expansion ideas, including a new facility near its current location. From the beginning, it realized the historical importance of staying in downtown. But after a former 1950s car dealership building became available, the museum seized on the opportunity to double its space and bring back a piece of local history. The renovated 28,000-square-foot adaptive reuse space will expand access to visitors and house exhibit galleries, a research library and staff offices, with the help of a design team led by DeLeon and Primmer.

INSPIRING YOUNG MINDS Design can also improve educational environments by enhancing the functionality of spaces used by teachers and students. The Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center wanted to create a high-quality learning environment with a design that integrated both architecture and nature. Thanks to a design team led by LTL Architects, it is in the process of building a new 44,000-square-foot facility and half-acre playground in downtown Bentonville. Thaden School, an independent school in downtown Bentonville, is developing a 30-acre campus in partnership with Eskew Dumez and Ripple and Marlon Blackwell Architects that will encourage students to move between buildings over the course of each day. Its spaces, both indoors and outdoors, will include local and reclaimed materials to spark curiosity, inspire creativity, invite reflection and give students hands-on opportunities to minimize their environmental impact. BUILDING UNIQUE DOWNTOWNS These projects have one thing in common—they are building on regional efforts to create unique experiences in each downtown. Already, downtown Springdale has taken a holistic approach to design. The Design Excellence Program will complement this work by supporting a new municipal campus that will serve as a signature entrance to the city’s downtown. This facility will provide better services to citizens and return several tracts of taxgenerating, income-producing properties for Springdale’s continued revitalization. This project will also complement ongoing efforts to enhance facades of buildings and improve economic viability and aesthetics in the area. The Design Excellence Program is also partnering with the Community Development Corporation of Bentonville/Bella Vista to develop designs for four auxiliary dwelling units in downtown Bentonville. Once the concepts are finalized, designs, specifications and construction documents will be shared free of charge with the general public and commercial developers through an online portal. This partnership will promote the development of additional affordable housing options in Bentonville’s downtown. GROWING OUTDOOR SPACES

Communities everywhere should think creatively and boldly about how design can complement and enhance all facets of our lives.

Design is not limited to indoor spaces. Inspired design can also have a transformative impact on open spaces. Through the Design Excellence Program, the Foundation is partnering with the City of Siloam Springs and CARBO Landscape Architects to develop a 5-acre park in its downtown that will serve as a beacon to residents and visitors alike. The outdoor space will include a splash pad, amphitheater, landscaped areas, open green spaces and a new farmers market venue. And, since outdoor spaces can also inspire communities to convene, the Design Excellence Program will scale up efforts to increase use and access of public green spaces in 2017. Design will continue to play an important role in Northwest Arkansas’s growth. But communities everywhere should think creatively and boldly about how design can complement and enhance all facets of our lives. BLOCK, STREET & BUILDING | 65


RED: The Symbolism and Impact of the Color Red in Judeo-Christian Scriptures and Beyond An Exhibition featuring Pre-selected Artists by Invitation Only; Curated by Tim Logan Location: STORY: The Gallery at Grace Point, March 5–May 21, 2017 Deadline for Submission: December 15, 2016 Artist’s Reception: TBD About the Show: The RED exhibition will explore the use, meaning, and influence of the color red in the Torah or the Bible. Conversation starters: It could be said that the color red is a "trademark" color for the Judeo-Christian heritage. What does it represent or symbolize? What are the prophetic implications and how does the color red come into play? How do those outside of Judaism or Christianity understand or interpret such representations? How does the color impact the emotions or influence the understanding of those who experience it in nature, art, photography, advertising/marketing, prose, poetry, or other vehicles? Are there differences in the Occidental vs. Oriental, or the Semitic vs. non-Semitic use and understanding of the color red? Opportunity Description: We prefer that the selected artists create or design a new and specific work on the theme, but we are willing to include creative work that has been produced within the past three years if it addresses the theme. Works that simply "celebrate" the color red are acceptable, as well, but we need the great majority to follow the theme more succinctly.

Your proposed piece should represent your “signature” creative work. Works should include or explore a topic, symbol, or idea that comes from the use of the color red in Jewish or Christian Scripture (The Torah or Bible, specifically). Artists need not be adherents to Judaism or Christianity in order to contribute. This exhibition is not argument, it is conversation, and we value the perspective of the nonreligious or representatives of other religions on this topic. SALES: We do not post prices or conduct sales in our gallery, but we are happy to provide contact information so that interested parties may get in touch with the artists directly. If you wish to provide a retail price for your artwork, we can keep it on file to provide it if requested. Additional Notes:

¥All 2-D artwork must be wired and ready to hang. ¥3-D artwork must include appropriate display devices. ¥If you have an oversized or large-scaled piece, or have special installation requirements please contact prior to submission to ensure we can adequately execute your installation. Phone: 479-586-6268.


The artist is responsible for delivering art on February 27-28, 2017 and picking up artwork beginning May 23, and not later than May 25. 18 november 16


The gallery is in a shared public space and open to all ages. Please be mindful that any proposed subject matter needs to be fitting for all to view.

BRUE | Walmart Store #5260

my favorite color red. is in a volvo station

t . b . m e r r i wagon tt

the siren

This collection of words or poems or thoughts has been of a fire described in many ways - as a masterpiece, as a piece truck of excrement, as a piece to the puzzle that lies within.

the handle

It illuminates the range of human experience from love on my platic sand to hate, from comedy to tragedy and then rises up and rake comes back at you once again. your

It is great for the coffee table, the jacket pocket or the smeared red back of the toilet. Read the lines quickly, then slowly. lipstick Read to the end and insert the title as the last line and see what it does for the piece. and that




is forever Additional words and letters (in parenthesis) allow the stained reader to alter the meanings with subtle movements and on interchanges in the language - the language of life. mine

t. b. merritt



1. What is your design philosophy? Process is the key for me to design. It takes years of trial and error and continuous refinement to develop a good “tool kit.” It has to consist of skills gained from the past, present and ongoing learning for the future. This is true whether I am designing a paper napkin, branding strategy, master plan or building project. A big part of my process is research and documentation. I develop an ongoing collage of information that aids in shaping the project, and allows me to revisit or reflect upon it when in need of a connection, detail, color or overall solution to specific conditions that arise. I like developing themes or concepts that become the framework for a narrative or story. 2.  What is the role of architecture in the public realm? Architecture is part art and part science. Being an art, it provides us an outlet for creative expression and allows society or the public to view, create and shape the environment and living space differently, in a unique way. Being a science, architecture also covers our functional needs, providing us living space and environment that is practical and comfortable. Architecture can either respond to the community or shape it, dictating the environment. However, in the best case it can do both, for it is better to answer to a particular social or natural phenomenon than to force it. That is the difference between say art, building and architecture; one evokes interest and emotion, the second is purely functional, while the third is mysterious, profound and real.   3.  How does your graphic design background inform your building designs? The Bauhaus (1919-1933), which means “house of construction” or “school of building,” was a school in Germany made famous for its approach to design, which combined crafts and the fine arts. They did not try to create works of art but rather good and useful designs, through which

form was tied to function. I have found that they are interconnected and one influences the other. Whether laying out a presentation graphically, doing construction documents or designing a logo, they have to work and convey information. What is the prominent message to the graphic or the building in plan or elevation? Aligning elements, creating space and establishing a hierarchy of the parts are all shared principals. 4. Before joining HFA Architects, you had your own company. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of being an independent architect? The most challenging aspect was having to do all tasks of running a business on my own, from administration to billing, marketing and business development/project acquisition on top of being the architect of the project, which had its own myriad of diverse challenges. Resources could also be a challenge, in that being a sole proprietor without staff, it would be up to me to figure things out and not have others to bounce ideas off of. However, I believe this is changing with the introduction of shared workspaces and co-ops of sorts. One of my passions and endeavors as cochair of the Northwest Arkansas section of the American Institute of Architects is to create such a space for small architect/design firms to share space and resources, and hold meetings and learning events as well as be a connection to the community. As a part of HFA’s special projects team for just a short time, I have been able to take all the skills I have acquired in relation to art, graphic design, process and research to develop a wide range of deliverables. HFA has recently initiated some progressive initiatives, and continue to motivate me everyday adding to my knowledge and skills and allowing me the freedom to take risks, propose ideas and design.  

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Profile for Arkansas Times

Block Street & Building | Vol. 3 | 2017  

Block Street & Building | Vol. 3 | 2017  

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