UACDC + MBA design transformative public realm for Arkansas capital
The Creative Corridor retrofits a four-block segment of an endangered downtown Main Street for a small city of 193,000. Economic development is catalysed by aggregating the city’s scattered cultural arts organisations rather than Main Street’s traditional retail base. The goal is to structure an identity for the Creative Corridor rooted in a mixed-use working and living environment anchored by the arts.
The challenge involves restructuring a public realm conceived for workaday commercial to now serve 24/7 urban lifestyles with a high level of livability. The approach employs four incremental phases in the corridor’s transformation to a downtown node. Nodes provide a sense of centrality and opportunity for social life that counters the dominance of mobility. The street is seen as a platform for capturing value. Auto traffic is calmed, as right-of-way reconfigurations accommodate streetcar transit and allow for expanded pedestrian-orientated streetscapes.
In lieu of stylistic architectural guidelines, townscaping structures and plazas address compatibility between larger infill buildings (which meet the threshold of economic feasibility) using curtain wall technologies and early 20th century commercial buildings fashioned from the expressive order of brick and stone. A design framework reliant on the urbanism of streetscapes - landscape architecture, ecological engineering, public space configurations, frontage systems and miscellaneous assemblages - ensures a coherent evolution of the street. The project generates niche value from the reclamation of a heritage environment whose exceptional place-making qualities cannot be replicated.