Grant to help revitalize Pettaway neighborhood
The following information is a revised version of press release issued earlier this month from the University of Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE-A National Endowment for the Arts grant is a first step toward the revival of the historic, 60-block Pettaway neighborhood in Little Rock, by blending new development within the fabric of that turn-of-the-century urban neighborhood.
The $30,000 grant, awarded to the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and the Downtown Little Rock Community Development Corp., will fund the creation of the Pettaway Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.
The grant recipients were among 1,145 nonprofit national, regional, state and local organizations recommended for a grant as part of the NEA’s second round of fiscal year 2011 grants. This design grant was part of the federal agency’s Access to Artistic Excellence Program. In total, the NEA will distribute more than $88 million to support projects nationwide.
The Community Design Center, an outreach program of the Fay Jones School of Architecture, works to advance creative development in Arkansas through education, research and design solutions that enhance the physical environment. The Community Development Corp. steers investment activity in the Pettaway neighborhood and develops single-family housing in the area.
The Community Design Center will spend 10 months generating the Pettaway Neighborhood Revitalization Plan. Designers hope to develop methods for urban infill that integrate contemporary innovations-such as green streets, transit-oriented development, urban agriculture, low-impact development live-work housing configurations – with existing historic buildings. They are using models they’ve already developed and applying them at a broader, neighborhood scale.
“Like all well-established urban areas, the Pettaway neighborhood offers a rich mixture of lifestyle opportunities in the architecture and land uses close to downtown,” Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center.
The plan will combine urban development with affordable housing and public transit planning. Ecological-based storm water management methods will be studied, including green streets, low-impact development, rainwater gardens, bioswales and stream restoration. Designers will propose that the city extend its downtown trolley system into a commuter streetcar system along a trunk line, which will connect the Pettaway neighborhood to the downtown business district and North Little Rock’s downtown.
Affordable housing configurations with mixed uses will cater to artists and others employed in creative, innovative fields, while serving the neighborhood’s established constituents. The project team will explore an open space and landscape plan that will link underused parks with new pocket parks, drainage corridors, community gardens, recreation areas and pedestrian areas.
The revitalization plan will be presented to the Pettaway neighborhood next spring.
Living in urban areas is becoming popular again for many groups, including singles, couples without children, families and professionals, Luoni said.
Some middle-income buyers see it as an investment opportunity and as a way to be downtown. “There are great properties in the neighborhood – historic homes and other value-adding features like tree-lined streets and pocket parks that can’t be found in the suburbs,” he said.
Scott Grummer, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Community Development Corp., said the neighborhood has some residents whose families have lived there for multiple generations. The area used to be a thriving neighborhood in the downtown area, but, after urban flight, “this neighborhood began to deteriorate faster than some of the adjoining neighborhoods.” The construction of Interstate 630 in the 1960s and ’70’s aggravated the problem by physically separating the residential area from downtown.
“It’s unique, in that it’s the closest residential neighborhood to the River Market area,” Grummer said. “It’s directly attached to the city center, so it’s kind of a hidden gem with the potential for redevelopment and revitalization.”
Downtown living and contemporary design are especially appealing to a younger generation, Grummer said. Six of the last 10 houses built and sold through the Community Development Corp. were for homebuyers ages 40 and younger.
Though the neighborhood is already strongly committed to and supportive of changes, this plan will better guide the development corporation actions.
“Something like this can bring the bigger vision for what the neighborhood can be,” Grummer said. “This, in turn, helps guide the corporation, the neighborhood and other developers in decisions they make for future developments.”
This plan will build on the MacArthur Park District Master Plan – a plan created by the Community Design Center that has won five national and two state design awards. Segments of that plan are slated for construction this year. In that plan for MacArthur Park, which borders the Pettaway area, one of the more visionary options was to build a pedestrian bridge over the interstate, which literally divided MacArthur Park, and reconnect the park and downtown to the Pettaway neighborhood.
“There’s so much revitalization potential currently being exhibited in Little Rock that will allow it to flourish as a great mid-sized city,” Luoni said. “This plan will return low-density urban neighborhood options to the table, providing a mix of classes with affordable choices for living downtown.”
For the past two years, the Fay Jones School of Architecture has partnered with the Community Development Corp. to design and build two affordable, sustainable homes in the Pettaway neighborhood. Both homes are located on East Commerce Street.
Luoni said the school’s design/build program and this new neighborhood plan approach revitalization from different scales. “We’re going to look at the building blocks of good neighborhood development and planning, with an aggregate thinking that exceeds what one can accomplish on a single piece of property,” he said. “The design/build program serves as an exemplary model for what can be accomplished through building typology at the micro-scale. They are building stunning, high-concept houses that are affordable.”
The Pettaway neighborhood has the chance to preserve a now historic diversity in ethnicity and income level, Luoni said. “Our development and finance industries are set up to create homogenous development. So we really have to relearn the lost intelligence that traditional neighborhoods delivered.”
These NEA grant recipients are also working with community organizations including the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, the Downtown and South Main neighborhood associations, and Metroplan, the Central Arkansas organization set up to receive federal transit funding.
The Community Design Center received two other NEA grants this year. The first, a $20,000 grant through the Access to Artistic Excellence Program, supported preparation of a 2030 Transit Scenario Plan for Fayetteville, which features an urban streetcar system. This scenario-planning project was based on research the center gathered while compiling the study Visioning Rail Transit in Northwest Arkansas: Lifestyles and Ecologies.
The second was also for a planning project in Little Rock. A $150,000 Our Town grant was awarded to the Community Design Center, Marlon Blackwell Architect and the city of Little Rock to provide for the initial design phase of a new Creative Corridor on Main Street in downtown Little Rock. The
Our Town grant was one of only 51 grants awarded nationwide.
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