March 25, 2014

CityLove: Little Rock Edition

  • By: Grant Stevens

Last week, we gave you a small taste of Little Rock, Ark., with an Instagram tour, and this week we’re back with an overview of the city for our CityLove series. What struck me when talking with folks from Little Rock was that though they're cheerleaders for their own neighborhoods, they spent just as much time -- if not more -- promoting the work of other neighborhoods. So while we focus on three specific neighborhoods, there are many more.

Though it struggled in the 1980s and early '90s, the River Market District has seen a massive turnaround with hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in recent years.

River Market District: You can’t talk about Little Rock without mentioning the River Market District, which acts as the city’s unofficial cultural center. Many of Little Rock’s biggest attractions are in the area -- the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, the Historic Arkansas Museum, and the Old State House Museum of Arkansas History.

The neighborhood has an array of restaurant options like the Ottenheimer Market Hall -- with 15 permanent merchants -- and outdoor farmers' markets overlooking Riverfront Park, open from April to October. A unique option to tour the city is by River Rail Streetcar.

Close to SoMa is Arkansas' newest nano-brewery Stone’s Throw Brewing, which used Kickstarter to revive a historic building as a brewery, complete with a tap room, walk-in cooler, and production space.

South Main (SoMa): Several people mentioned this as the neighborhood they felt had changed the most during the past year. SoMa has some of Little Rock’s most diverse shopping -- everything from the Green Corner Store & Soda Fountain to Piano Kraft -- great places to dine, and houses in some of the finest old neighborhoods. The latest addition to the neighborhood is South on Main, which is described as a “cultural experience that includes a restaurant and performance venue featuring the best of Southern cuisine and culture."

South on Main also plays host to musical performances, literary readings, film screenings, and content from the Oxford American.

North Little Rock is working to make Argenta a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use community that raises the standard of living and quality of life while alleviating strain on the environment.

North Little Rock & Argenta – Although it’s not technically in Little Rock -- the unincorporated community of Argenta was annexed by Little Rock, but eventually became part of the new town of North Little Rock -- Argenta is just across the Arkansas River. Connecting the two cities in the Junction Bridge, which spans the river between the River Market District of Little Rock and the Verizon Arena.

Other highlights include the Argenta Farmers Market, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum & USS Razorback, the Arkansas River Trail, and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum. The Argenta Downtown Council and the Argenta Arts District coordinate many events, including the annual Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival every October.

Curious about getting involved with the local preservation groups? That's great! We recommend starting with the Quapaw Quarter Association (which is gearing up for their 50th Spring Tour of Homes May 10 and 11, 2014) or the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. Let us know your Arkansas must-sees in the comments below!

Grant is proud to be from a Main Street Community and the Black Dirt Capitol of the World—Conrad, Iowa! You can most often find him reading, running, or out on the road saving places.


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