The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock | University of Arkansas Community Design Center + Marlon Blackwell Architect

The Creative Corridor project reclaims a four-block segment of a neglected Main Street. Rather than relying on Main Street’s traditional retail base, this project relies on the arts to catalyze economic development. The Creative Corridor would create a mixed-use environment sensitive to the historical context.

The plan addresses Main Street’s reputation as an unsafe place, particularly after work hours. The project reintroduces the traditional social functions of streets (gathering, assembly, recreation, aesthetics), which for a long time had been subordinated to traffic needs.

The project proposes a three-phase incremental approach. First the plan proposes creating gateways, or urban “rooms” to calm traffic and mark transitions into the Corridor. The next step is developing a center, or demarcating the most important intersection in Little Rock with a plaza. To create a memorable room in this space, the plan proposes an elevated lawn/amphitheater, a public transit stop, an arcade, a light garden, and public art. The third and final phase is linking phases one and two together by “thickening the edge,” which the plan defines as creating a pedestrian promenade and low-impact development infrastructure. Phases can be accomplished in succession, or simultaneously, as private investment and political will permit.

Recognizing that setting architectural guidelines is not politically feasible, the plan proposes townscaping elements, such as arcades, marquees, and stormwater-management landscapes, to bridge street and building interiors. Townscaping strategies reconfigure the street as an illuminated work of public art responsive to user inputs. Also streetscapes are designed to deliver ecological services in addition to urban services. Based on the Creative Corridor plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committed $1.2 million to implement the plan’s low-impact development streetscapes. Aside from that, more than $160 million in building renovations are currently underway, including more than 200 dwelling units.

Additional Credit

  • Design Specialist: National Endowment for the Arts

Photo Credit

  • © University of Arkansas Community Design Center + Marlon Blackwell Architect

The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock

Jury Comments

The Creative Corridor Plan proposes to create a Main Street that is to America what the piazza was to Italy.

This project recognizes that a well-designed street provides valuable social functions, and it provides thoughtful solutions to address needs far beyond the simple movement of traffic.

In small gestures like the recycled street lamps, and in grand ones like restoring the vitality of Main Street, this plan shows an appreciation for history. In features like streetscapes that provide ecosystem services, the plan demonstrates an understanding of what it takes to build a thriving city for the 21st century.

2014 Institute Honor Awards for Regional and Urban Design Jury

  • Marcy McInelly, AIA, Chair
  • Urbsworks, Inc.
  • Portland, Oregon
  • David Gamble, AIA
  • Gamble Associates
  • Boston
  • Manuel de Lemos, AIA
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • The Honorable Tom Murphy
  • Senior Fellow, Urban Land Institute and
    former Mayor of Pittsburgh
  • Washington, DC
  • Brad Tomecek, AIA
  • Tomecek Studio Architecture
  • Denver

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