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When Main Street was the heart of the city: A shot of Main in Little Rock in the early 20th century, facing south.

The Main thing

Since the Arkansas Times is headquartered in downtown Little Rock and a stone’s throw from Argenta, we’ve long paid special attention to the area’s development. In the last decade, we’ve put out three publications focusing on downtown revitalization, filled with the visions and visionaries. A striking number of the plans we previewed came to pass. In that spirit, this week we again turn our attention to downtown with a special focus on Main Street.

In the pages that follow, we linger only briefly on the past — that story, of the ascendancy of Main Streets everywhere and the suburbanization and urban renewal of cities that led to their decline, is a familiar one. Instead, we turn our attention to the present, to some of the businesses that have survived through moribund stretches, to the leaders and developers and property owners at the vanguard of revival efforts and to the people who’re drawn to live downtown. The Creative Corridor plan for Little Rock’s Main Street that we survey is decidedly aspirational, but many of the other future projects on both sides of the river that we feature have funding and target dates behind them; Mayor Mark Stodola likes to estimate new downtown investment at $60 million; a single investment group that includes John Gaudin and Harold Tenenbaum estimate the amount of dollars they’ve put into revitalization north of the river at $20 million. However much the numbers are, it’s starting to show.

To give you a sense of the street-level geography of Main Street, we’ve included sequential block-by-block photos of much of Main (like the one you see above) on strips along the outer edges of pages that follow. Read on to see photos and architectural drawings of some of the more prominent development.

We predict that even those skeptical of a true Main Street revival will find cause for optimism.