How have you been involved in the development of East Village? What we [Moses Tucker Real Estate] primarily have done is work with the Cromwell firm in conceiving and trying to develop a concept for the new neighborhood. [The Sterling Paint building] has been for sale for a long time. And like so many things, all of a sudden it dawned on everyone. This could be the start of something exciting - a new, edgier neighborhood for downtown Little Rock. That building being available and interesting architecturally, interesting historically, and sitting in the old industrial district of our city - all of a sudden that made all of the previous thinking gel. All of a sudden the idea of the East Village starts to take shape.
What makes this the moment? I think we as a city have suffered mightily from the demolition and destruction of our urban core. We've had a history of it for 50 or 60 years, going back to urban renewal. Little Rock was the largest urban renewal federal clearance project in the United States. Well, we just lost all of the fabric of our city, and we were left with a raft of surface parking lots, even today. In contrast to that, there is a significant number of interesting warehouse-type structures left over on the east side of I-30 that remain and speak to the history of the city. The opportunity to work with some of that interesting architecture and the history of that neighborhood - all of that works together to make you want to think about saving it and working to adapt it to a new modern use, and not wholesale demolition.
What are the boundaries of East Village? I think boundaries are best left unstated so that creativity can help establish the boundaries eventually. It could go six, eight, ten blocks further east, pick up the Carver Magnet Elementary School and the single-family neighborhood that's in place. We're hopeful that a lot of the property to the east that has been residential can stay just that, and get healthier. Not necessarily replace anybody, just add to the housing stock.
Are there any impediments to continued growth and development? As it develops with office use, more housing and restaurant, and commercial activity, the nature of the way the streets work, particularly Sixth Street, needs to be re-examined. Curbside parking becomes desirable. Slowing traffic down. Making it function more as a neighborhood you can walk around in. And then the general connectivity to the existing downtown core. It's quite obvious that I-30 divides this area from the current downtown area. The connectivity between the two as the I-30 project moves forward, all of that needs to be thought about and planned for.
What do you think the neighborhood will look like in five years? Different than it does today. The next significant project will be the Sterling Paint building redevelopment. I think it is going to be a fun, neat addition that's mixed-use, and should be in place by summer of next year. The eStem school plans to be in that neighborhood. That would be an incredible addition. But as to what it will really look like, I don't think any of us really knows yet. I think it needs to grow organically. But it will be quite different than what is there today.