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The bridge park

Updated: Jan 10

The term “game-changer” is overused. But the bridge park proposed for downtown Little Rock truly will be a game-changer.

It was announced last month that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $2 million planning grant for the city of Little Rock to design a deck park over Interstate 30 between Sixth Street and Ninth Street.

If you’ve ever experienced Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas, you have a sense of what a great deck park can do for a neighborhood.

This park — with interstate traffic flowing underneath — will connect the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts on one side of the interstate with the Clinton Center, the Heifer International campus and the emerging East Village on the other side.

Once Lyon College opens dental and veterinary schools on the Heifer campus, almost 1,000 additional people (students, faculty, staff) will spend their days in the area. It will be their park of choice.

Guests at the high-rise Holiday Inn and Comfort Inn, which face a busy interstate, will soon look down on a park instead of concrete and cars. Hotel business will increase.

Property values will soar at the Quapaw Tower, a venerable condominium complex whose residents will look down at the park on one side and the arts museum on the other side.

I know what you’re saying: “This is only $2 million for a project that will cost $100 million or more. How do we know it will happen?”

I worked in government long enough to know that they’re not going to spend $2 million to plan something that’s never constructed. The park will be built through a combination of federal, state and city funds.

Remember that massive infrastructure bill that Congress approved? The U.S. Department of Transportation will award annual construction grants for such projects across the country during the next four years.

The deck park will complement a nearby 18.9-acre urban park. Space for the larger park, which borders the River Market District and the main campus of the Central Arkansas Library System, was created by the 30 Crossing project. Interested parties already are meeting on a regular basis to make plans for the larger park.

Two new parks, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (housed in a facility that has already received international media coverage), the dental school and the veterinary school should lead to additional residential complexes along with more restaurants, bars and retailers.

Things suddenly look favorable for downtown.

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