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The River Market

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The River Market opened on July 5, 1996 with the opening of the Ottenheimer Market Hall. The River Market Overlay District is the area east of Cumberland, south of the river, west of I-30 and north of 2nd.

river101rn.jpg

The River Matket District contains a number of restaurants besides the 17 vendors in Ottenheimer Hall. During the spring and summer months the River Market is home to the farmers market. In the past two weeks the District has added the Flying Burrito and Rumba restaurants along with the Revolution music room.

Restaurants/Bars in the District:

Ernie Biggs

Stichy Fingerz

Willie D's

Boscos

Gusano's

Sonny Williams

Flying Saucer

Underground Pub

Flying Fish

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The River Market opened on July 5, 1996 with the opening of the Ottenheimer Market Hall. The River Market Overlay District is the area east of Cumberland, south of the river, west of I-30 and north of 2nd.

river101rn.jpg

The River Matket District contains a number of restaurants besides the 17 vendors in Ottenheimer Hall. During the spring and summer months the River Market is home to the farmers market. In the past two weeks the District has added the Flying Burrito and Rumba restaurants along with the Revolution music room.

Restaurants/Bars in the District:

Ernie Biggs

Stichy Fingerz

Willie D's

Boscos

Gusano's

Sonny Williams

Flying Saucer

Underground Pub

Flying Fish

Great observation! It might be noted that in 10 years time, the River Market District has finally developed a skyline in its own right, with 3 NEW buildings exceeding 12 stories in height (plus a few mid-rises).

Also, you fail to list the "newest" restaurant (of which I partook this evening) - Flying Burrito of Fayetteville fame. No relation to Flying Saucer or Flying Fish, which are related.

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Great observation! It might be noted that in 10 years time, the River Market District has finally developed a skyline in its own right, with 3 NEW buildings exceeding 12 stories in height (plus a few mid-rises).

Also, you fail to list the "newest" restaurant (of which I partook this evening) - Flying Burrito of Fayetteville fame. No relation to Flying Saucer or Flying Fish, which are related.

Oh yeah I forgot to mention that I heard it's open. It's pretty popular up here.

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Business must be good because the Flying Burrito is owned by the owner of Ernie Biggs and the Rumba/Revolution is owned by the owner of Stichy Fingerz. I only listed restaurants in the overlay district. What the actual boundaries of the district are I do not know. Restaruants near the district and some would include them are:

Cafe 42

Vermillion Water Grille

Nu

Pokey D's

Iriana's

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What a success this has been.

Someone mentioned the boundaries earlier, does anyone know where the official boundaries are? I, personally, think it should be extended to include the mix-used projects being built and even possibly the library.

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What a success this has been.

Someone mentioned the boundaries earlier, does anyone know where the official boundaries are? I, personally, think it should be extended to include the mix-used projects being built and even possibly the library.

If you read the new River Market 10 website the boundaries extend everywhere. It includes the Rep., the Arkansas Arts Center, Robinson Center and Alltel Arena. This is the first time I've heard of NLR being included in the District. The website has blown the District into the unknown. It talks about dozens of hotels in the District, there are only 8 hotels in downtown LR/NLR. It also talks about dozens of small stores in the District. Also, it states there are over 3,000 living units in the works for downtown., where did this come from?

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I remember when I was in high school or junior high when Spaghetti Warehouse took over the old Choctaw train depot down there. It did well for a while but flopped because people were scared to death of that area at night. Most of those old warehouses were abandoned with broken glass and the eastern downtown riverfront was a large homeless colony because of the proximity of train tracks and nearby missions.

Now that area's the most thriving, most expensive real estate in Arkansas. I wonder how many investors thought that people buying up downtown land were madmen.

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I remember when I was in high school or junior high when Spaghetti Warehouse took over the old Choctaw train depot down there. It did well for a while but flopped because people were scared to death of that area at night. Most of those old warehouses were abandoned with broken glass and the eastern downtown riverfront was a large homeless colony because of the proximity of train tracks and nearby missions.

Now that area's the most thriving, most expensive real estate in Arkansas. I wonder how many investors thought that people buying up downtown land were madmen.

Yes, I was shocked and dismayed when this was closed. However, I'm not so sure that it became less popular because of where it was (I don't believe there were ever any problems there), but simply because the newness wore off - the story of many a restaurant. I guess in the end, it didn't really matter as the Clinton Presidential Library overtook the whole area ultimately.

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Yes, I was shocked and dismayed when this was closed. However, I'm not so sure that it became less popular because of where it was (I don't believe there were ever any problems there), but simply because the newness wore off - the story of many a restaurant. I guess in the end, it didn't really matter as the Clinton Presidential Library overtook the whole area ultimately.

I went there the other day and I wasn't terribly impressed. Spaghetti Warehouse is pretty average Italian fare. It was a cool set up because of the rail cars and caboose you could dine in but I agree, it's certainly better in its current incarnation.

Another big transformation was the old Fones Warehouse being converted into the new library. That old building was abandoned my entire life, it was never occupied. The new library is such an attractive structure and that interstate on-ramp there has such high visibility that was a real cornerstore for the area.

Edited by Aporkalypse

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This article from the Shreveport Times sure was encouraging to read. Sometimes you only have to think about how things used to be to see the progress that has really been made in downtown LR.

Other cities also seek perfect downtown mix

By Melody Brumble

Shreveport groups trying to bring people downtown are looking to Little Rock, Ark., for answers.

Members of the Downtown Development Authority have visited Little Rock's River Market and other riverfront attractions twice. Last fall, River Market Manager Shannon Light visited Shreveport to share her thoughts.

She recalls speaking to a group at Santa Maria Barbecue in the Red River District.

"It was so nice inside, but it was empty," Light said.

River Market, a complex of open-air pavilions and an enclosed hall, anchors a multiuse entertainment and arts district on Little Rock's riverfront. The projects started a decade ago with the hall and pavilions as a way to bring new life to a crumbling warehouse district.

The hall houses retail business. The pavilions handle everything from a farmer's market to sit-down dinners for 500 people.

"There's a small group of people that met down here every Thursday at 1 while the market was being built," Light said. "They still meet. It's a dreaming group of people that just won't let things die."

River Market followed several efforts to transform downtown. A couple of them failed, leading Jimmy Moses, River Market's chief cheerleader, to say during a speech, "Is this going to be third time's a charm or three strikes you're out?"

Voters turned down a $42.1 million proposal for a similar center in 1991. Five years later, supporters pulled together $5 million from several sources to start redevelopment in an eight-block area.

Little Rock draws on an immediate market about double the size of Shreveport's. As the state capitol, with ties to former President Bill Clinton, it also attracts tourists from all over the world.

The type of crowd visiting the River Market and the surrounding district varies with the time of day.

"There are so many people working in this area now. They're coming down here to eat breakfast and lunch, they're shopping in the galleries. It's not just a Bealesque feeling," Light said, referring to Memphis, Tenn.'s Beale Street entertainment area. "At night people are going to the bars and clubs and restaurants."

The area suffered growing pains, including a perception that the warehouse district was unsafe and "scary," but "if you have something people like, they will come," Light said.

She encouraged Shreveport's downtown promoters to work with what's here and praised attractions like the spray park on Clyde Fant Parkway.

"I thought I was going to a place that needed help, but there was so much going on," Light said. "The question when I came to Shreveport was, 'How do y'all do it?' The magic is having these people and having the energy and the willingness to give your staff the freedom to go. Dream big."

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Very interesting to see people's opinion from outside the state. I have a question. What does everyone think the River Market would be today if they Clinton Library wasn't built? Just curious to see if people think there is a big influence there or if it made much of a difference.

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great article about the river market! my only concern with the area is that there seems little area for it to grow. it is a short street with the ramp off the interstate and the river on either side. I wish we had more room to do something the way Oklahoma City did with its Bricktown District. It is a much larger area with room for expansion. are there plans to expand the rivermarket district?

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Very interesting to see people's opinion from outside the state. I have a question. What does everyone think the River Market would be today if they Clinton Library wasn't built? Just curious to see if people think there is a big influence there or if it made much of a difference.

The District really had an uphill battle early on and a lot of places opened and closed but well before the Clinton Library opened it has passed the point where it was clearly going to succeed. During my years in school in LR from 1997 to 2001 we had hell finding seats in the River Market at lunchtime. Every decent bar or restaurant including the Flying Saucer and Underground did well though some poorly planned businesses like Six Bridges and Afr-Ja-Mex failed. Overall though it really has been steady momentum since the district began in 1995. The Clinton Library sure has helped with daytime street traffic, pedestrian and vehicle, though.

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great article about the river market! my only concern with the area is that there seems little area for it to grow. it is a short street with the ramp off the interstate and the river on either side. I wish we had more room to do something the way Oklahoma City did with its Bricktown District. It is a much larger area with room for expansion. are there plans to expand the rivermarket district?

The district per se is artificial. It really ends on the North with the River, East with the Clinton Library and Heifer Project, South with the MacArthur Park Historic District and to the West with an artificial boundary at Main. Technically I guess it could extend Eastward past the Library and Heifer Project into the delapidated industrial warehouses there. Whatever that area ends up being called it will be redeveloped over the next decade to some extent.

The real target area is Main Street, though. This has been part of the city's downtown plan since the River Market District was first conceived. Development will spread Northward up Main from the already refurbished area at Markham up to I-630. With the Lafayette Square project and Donaghey Building condo projects underway the residential component is already there. The Stephens family bought up a large portion of Main including the old Center Theater but apparently hit some snags as the theater may not be salvageable. They also had planned to help fund a new larger version of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre but this failed to get the grant they hoped for and it may be dead as well. Still, much of what needs to happen on Main is already going on, we just hope that when it does we see the storefronts reborn into a more modern streetscape.

After Main, Capitol and Chester streets are targeted as renewal corridors.

I don't think LR's plan is to create a large district like Bricktown as much as to make all of downtown walkable, clean, and essentially one large "entertainment district". In many ways I think we have an even better plan. There's no artificial riverwalk, though, and we really will have to rely on streetscapes and utilize the Riverfront the best we can. I hope the new bridge renovations help with that.

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Great pictures. Was the last one from the First Security Building? I love the angle.

I can't wait for the Butler Center to be completed which will eliminate the last eyesores in the core of the district. Something should've been done with those buildings long ago.

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Great pictures. Was the last one from the First Security Building? I love the angle.

I can't wait for the Butler Center to be completed which will eliminate the last eyesores in the core of the district. Something should've been done with those buildings long ago.

It was taken from the River Market Parking Deck.

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It sounds like the Rumba/Revolution is finally filling in that space that has been the River Market's black corner with a series of businesses failing in what seems to perhaps be the best location.

The first bar was the pourhouse and it was kind of a bland, ordinary bar that was part of a regional chain. There was a clothing store adjacent to it, Vesta's, that never really got off the ground. Then Tampa-based national bar chain Banana Joe's, which had a history of clubs going bankrupt and closing, failed to pay the bills that remodeled the bar in the first place. Next came the ill-fated Club Coconutz, which just was tacky and ill-conceived. Chris King and Suzon who used to run JR's Ballroom and Dave's on Dickson in Fayetteville struck gold with Sticky Fingerz (also in a spot where a previous bar, Six Bridges, failed) and eventually expanded and took up the space that belonged to Soho Furniture.

Now they've opened Rumba which is a Mexican/Cuban restaurant and Revolution which is a bar targeted at live music acts a tier higher than what the small space at Sticky's could support. They sold out an appearance by Blues Traveler and it looks to be the premiere live music bar venue in LR (you have to wonder how that will affect Juanita's) and adds a new element to the River Market.

With Bosco's success in a slot where multiple other businesses have failed (River Market Brewery, Chit's, some Caribbean place) and Gusano's doing well it seems like the core of the River Market District is filled with successful businesses and that it will either have to grow East and fill in a couple of the empty slots near the Clinton Library store or East and North onto Main.

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At this time I do not see any expansion up Main unless Stephens does something. He owns most of the property between Main and Captiol. Of the four blocks between Markham and 3rd three of them are taken up with parking. Something might develop between Capitol and 7th if the Donaghey Building condos proceed. It might even extend west to Center. I think Main St. NLR will be developed before Main St. LR..

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At this time I do not see any expansion up Main unless Stephens does something. He owns most of the property between Main and Captiol. Of the four blocks between Markham and 3rd three of them are taken up with parking. Something might develop between Capitol and 7th if the Donaghey Building condos proceed. It might even extend west to Center. I think Main St. NLR will be developed before Main St. LR..

Don't you think the residential development of Lafayette Square and the Donaghey Building right in the middle of Main will spur commercial redevelopment below them?

Most of the storefronts are already filled by businesses like Bennett's military, a liquor store, and RAO Video. It would just be nice if the types of businesses were scaled up a bit and the storefronts renovated in the area near the Rep.

I knew Stephens bought up the property in the area and was looking to build a new home for the Rep, which lost out on a Reynolds foundation grant. I also knew he was looking at renovating the Center Theater as an arts/upscale movie hall but the building turned out to be in pretty poor condition.

What do you think Stephens plans are for the area and do you know the timetable?

The other area that needs redevelopment is the eastern portion of Markham downtown. As you from the Clinton library East everything is nice and redone until you pass the police station and there are 3 blocks in poor condition there before you get to the Train Station. There is a homeless shelter there that has tons of vagrants around it all times of day and frankly this has been a tremendous deterrent to redevelopment. Were the city able to encourage them to move this I think the entire Clinton/Markham corridor downtown could be in pristine condition within 5 years. Connect the trolley to the train station and then it would really make that street something special.

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Don't you think the residential development of Lafayette Square and the Donaghey Building right in the middle of Main will spur commercial redevelopment below them?

Most of the storefronts are already filled by businesses like Bennett's military, a liquor store, and RAO Video. It would just be nice if the types of businesses were scaled up a bit and the storefronts renovated in the area near the Rep.

I knew Stephens bought up the property in the area and was looking to build a new home for the Rep, which lost out on a Reynolds foundation grant. I also knew he was looking at renovating the Center Theater as an arts/upscale movie hall but the building turned out to be in pretty poor condition.

What do you think Stephens plans are for the area and do you know the timetable?

The other area that needs redevelopment is the eastern portion of Markham downtown. As you from the Clinton library East everything is nice and redone until you pass the police station and there are 3 blocks in poor condition there before you get to the Train Station. There is a homeless shelter there that has tons of vagrants around it all times of day and frankly this has been a tremendous deterrent to redevelopment. Were the city able to encourage them to move this I think the entire Clinton/Markham corridor downtown could be in pristine condition within 5 years. Connect the trolley to the train station and then it would really make that street something special.

If you look at Main St. there is not a whole lot there. Between 2nd and 3rd there is parking with the westside being Stephens owned. Between 3rd and 4th there is Bennett's, a liquor store and a tattoo place on the westside and on the east is Mr. Kools and a wig store. Between 4th and Capitol there is nothing on the westside (Stephens owned) and KATV and a few other offices. Between Capital and 6th there is Lafayette Square with planned retail on the westside and the eastside contains the failed Mall. Stephens owns other property on the street not listed. At 610 Main is also a small condo project with planned retail.

I don't see anything being done on Main concerning Stephens until his hotel rehab project is finished. There is always hope that Doyle Rogers can find someway to use the old Blass Building.

As far as Markham goes I read that the building is used to give out free meals has been sold and it will be used for something else.

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If you look at Main St. there is not a whole lot there. Between 2nd and 3rd there is parking with the westside being Stephens owned. Between 3rd and 4th there is Bennett's, a liquor store and a tattoo place on the westside and on the east is Mr. Kools and a wig store. Between 4th and Capitol there is nothing on the westside (Stephens owned) and KATV and a few other offices. Between Capital and 6th there is Lafayette Square with planned retail on the westside and the eastside contains the failed Mall. Stephens owns other property on the street not listed. At 610 Main is also a small condo project with planned retail.

I don't see anything being done on Main concerning Stephens until his hotel rehab project is finished. There is always hope that Doyle Rogers can find someway to use the old Blass Building.

As far as Markham goes I read that the building is used to give out free meals has been sold and it will be used for something else.

So is the Center Theater project dead?

Do you see downtown LR projects stagnating for a while as projects take place in NLR? The lower prices and especially large tracts of vacant land over there are attractive and while Main St is improving, there is zero foot traffic over there right now, day or night. I don't know if Main St Argenta can emerge as a solo entertainment district.

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So is the Center Theater project dead?

Do you see downtown LR projects stagnating for a while as projects take place in NLR? The lower prices and especially large tracts of vacant land over there are attractive and while Main St is improving, there is zero foot traffic over there right now, day or night. I don't know if Main St Argenta can emerge as a solo entertainment district.

I do not know anything on the Center Theater although it was to be included in the REPs plans before they were not funded.

The one advantage for Argenta is they have buildings in place between Broadway and 7th.

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So is the Center Theater project dead?

Do you see downtown LR projects stagnating for a while as projects take place in NLR? The lower prices and especially large tracts of vacant land over there are attractive and while Main St is improving, there is zero foot traffic over there right now, day or night. I don't know if Main St Argenta can emerge as a solo entertainment district.

I don't think that LR projects are going to stagnate while these NLR projects come on line. They have just started on the new Nature Center behind the Museum of Discovery. Lion's World Services for the Blind plans to build a new campus near the Clinton Library and Heifer International. And Moses Tucker is not finished building projects downtown either. The thing is Stephens needs to go ahead and announce what he is going to do with all of the property along Main St. With the Lafayette Square project and the recent announcement that the Donaghey Building will be turned into condos, Stephens should go ahead and announce his plans to compliment these developments.

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this should be very informative on continued development of main street:

Main Street Arkansas is sponsoring a conference on downtown revitalization Sept. 11-13 at The Peabody Little Rock. Dan Carmody of the Downtown Fort Wayne, Ind., Business Improvement District and Kennedy Lawson Smith of the Land Use Economic Group will be the keynote speakers. The cost is $90 through Aug. 18, and $120 after. For more information, call (501) 324-9880 or register online at www.destinationdowntown.org.

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