From a building tenant all the way up to the Mayor of Little Rock, it's an exciting time to be involved in the revitalization occurring on Main Street.
But before the city's leaders, developers and business owners got behind the idea of a creative corridor — which hopes to bring art, culture, food, jobs and living space together in a four-block area on Main Street between Third and Seventh streets — Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, needed only one word to describe the condition on Main Street.
Now, city leaders and developers are working to make Main Street another thriving part of downtown, but at the same time, different and unique to the area.
"We want to be known as the creative corridor," Priest said. "This is part of the creative economy that's coming and is expanding in Little Rock."
An update on the progress? So far, so good.
In less than two years, various multi-million dollar projects have sprouted up along Main Street, breathing new life into the area.
The Mann on Main development, the K Lofts, a new hotel, CRJW's move to the Fulk Building, Orbea's North American headquarters and the Tech Park. All are projects finished, currently taking place, or planned for Main Street. Not to mention what we told you to expect this summer in the Arkansas Building with The Rep, Arkansas Ballet, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, in addition to a little art and food.
It's exactly what Priest said is needed to make the area thrive. It needs the businesses, jobs and residential area, but also needs the arts, culture and food to raise the quality of life in the area.
“If we want to attract technology start-ups, young talented people, we’ve got to be able to provide a good quality of life, as well," she said.
As far as some of Main Street tenants are concerned, the creative corridor movement was an opportunity they could not pass up.
For visual artist Matt McLeod, who will have a gallery coming this summer in the Arkansas Building, the early plans and backing for the creative corridor showed him people were serious about having a "strong, creative culture" on Main Street.
"It's absolutely the reason I chose this spot," he said. "There's a very cooperative environment going on. The [City of Little Rock] wants this to happen and developers do, too."
With the great opportunity and support from city leaders, McLeod said he believes this is something he could look back on in 20 or 30 years and feel proud to have been a part of "something special."
"Little Rock is my city," he said. "I've lived here all my life, and to be a part of this for creative culture, that's exciting for me."
Kent Walker, an artisan cheese maker, called the downtown, creative corridor the perfect place for his business, which is expected to move into the Arkansas Building this summer, even though many in his field find it easier to run operations outside the city.
"A lot of cheese makers are in the country," he said. "It takes a lot of space to age cheese, but I love the idea of being downtown, having access to tourists, it helps make Little Rock unique."
In addition to doubling its current space, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra executive director Christina Littlejohn said the the ASO's move to the Arkansas Building and M.M. Cohn gives them more visibility.
"Where we are now is lovely, but downtown and the creative corridor gives us more visibility," she said. "It gives us space to show off and it makes sense. Currently, we don't work where a lot of companies are, but downtown, we'll be where there are lots of people, and will have more opportunities for performances during the day."
The Rep's producing artistic director Robert Hupp called it an exceptional time to be on Main Street. The performing arts theatre's main hall is right across the street from the primarily educational space it plans to open this summer in the Arkansas Building. The space will also include a black box theatre.
"What we're seeing is growth of nonprofit art and private investment," he said. "It's a winning investment, working together to revitalize the neighborhood, and both sides are equally important."
Across the board, people from all the areas — art, culture and food — are showing interest in the Main Street creative corridor, and excitement for what the area could develop into.
It's safe to say the feel of Main Street is changing. With so many projects planned, projected and in progress, it should be fun to see what becomes of the creative corridor.