In this Saturday’s column on the Voices page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I’ll return to the subject of downtown Little Rock.
There’s a lot going on.
In the “coming soon” category, we have:
— Next month’s grand opening of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, the biggest thing to happen downtown since the Clinton Presidential Center opened in November 2004.
— The Artspace Windgate campus in the emerging East Village part of downtown. This is a $36 million project.
— The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s $9 million Stella Boyle Smith Music Center, which will be built between the Clinton Center and the Heifer International campus.
— Lyon College’s dental and veterinary schools in the Heifer International building.
— Expansion of the ambassadors program, which will make visitors to downtown feel safer.
— Lighting the Broadway Bridge, a project of the venerable Little Rock Rotary Club.
Now, here’s my list of things that also must happen for downtown to reach its potential:
— Fill the more than 80 Little Rock Police Department vacancies. That will allow the department to have officers who walk beats downtown. The biggest problem downtown is an image problem. People across the state don’t think it’s safe.
— Restore Capitol Avenue. The city has created a committee to make recommendations. City officials need to take those recommendations seriously. The road leading to the steps of the state Capitol should be the grandest urban boulevard in Arkansas.
— Attract developers to transform the empty Boyle and Donaghey buildings on Main Street into residential housing to serve the dental and veterinary schools.
— Convince the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to have a major downtown presence. How about moving the business school and associating it with the Little Rock Technology Park?
— Properly develop the urban greenspace adjacent to the River Market District that’s being created by the 30 Crossing project.