Little Rock River Market District

The Little Rock River Market District is the downtown area of Little Rock, Arkansas along the Arkansas River. Since 1996, it has become the cultural, social and corporate center of Arkansas’ capital city. It consists of the area east of Cumberland Street to the Clinton Library east of Interstate 30 and south of the Arkansas River to the Arkansas Arts Center, and to the banks of North Little Rock’s ALLTEL Arena.

The River Market District is most well known for the actual Little Rock ‘’’River Market’’’. The River Market has over the last century been the center of exchange of goods for farmers from across the state of Arkansas and the tradition continues today every Tuesday and Saturday mornings. In 1996, the decision was made to refurbish the area around the River Market into a vibrant, exotic mix of local businesses, museums, galleries, restaurants, and bars. Today, the River Market District’s restaurants and bars are packed most Friday and Saturday nights and the District is continually hosting many major conventions including the American Taekwondo Association’s World Championships, the largest convention in the state of Arkansas.

The Little Rock River Market District kicked off its 10-year anniversary celebration June 8, 2006 with a concert in the River Market Pavilions. Numerous events, promotions, hotel packages and festivities are underway for the celebration, which runs through Saturday, August 19, 2006 – former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday.

History: from rags to riches

In 1980s and 1990s, the Little Rock River Market area was a run-down, desolate part of Arkansas’ capital city that few people ever visited. Like many cities around the country, Little Rock struggled for years with problems of its downtown business district losing businesses and restaurants to the ever-expanding suburbs. The downtown Little Rock area could very easily have been described as a ghost town.

The vision of the current River Market District has been attributed to mainly one man – Jimmy Moses of Moses Tucker Real Estate based in Little Rock. The original idea for a riverfront downtown area was crafted, like all great ideas, on the back of a napkin as he traveled back from a visit to Pike Place Market in Seattle in the early 1980s.

The need to create an area in downtown Little Rock which would serve as a cultural and entertainment district led Moses to take the idea to the city board in 1990. Moses, convinced of the necessity of this downtown district, strongly advocated to the city board a proposal for what was named the "Diamond Center" – an idea similar to the current River Market District concept, but when it came before Little Rock voters in October 1991, the $42.1 million proposal failed 57 percent to 43 percent.

Eventually, a grassroots campaign and many long planning sessions to refurbish the plan and public opinion were undertaken along with a new pioneer, Dean Kumpuris, Little Rock City Board Director and longtime downtown advocate. Kumpuris led the taskforce for the new development while Moses led The Downtown Partnership, as it geared up to advocate for the changes. The Downtown Partnership is non-profit, membership-based organization charged with developing and promoting Downtown Little Rock as a vibrant national and international tourist destination, as well as a high-energy urban environment to live and grow businesses.

The new proposal consisted of a comprehensive redevelopment project for an 8-block area adjoining Riverfront Park. Little Rock-based advertising agency Stone Ward was brought on, along with Baltimore planning firm RTKL to work together to develop the concept, its new name and brand – The River Market District.

Eventually, over $5 million in funding was derived from a number of sources, including $1.2 million from the federal government, $1.1 from the Capitol Improvement Bond Fund, $200,000 from related city street programs, $170,000 from The Downtown Partnership, $100,000 from Riverfest programs, and $80,000 from the Central Arkansas Library System. Additional funds were paid by local property owners and the city to improve sidewalks and lighting in the area.

Many private and public companies have made contributions to make the District what it is today, including St. Vincent Health System who was the lead investment underwriter for the River Market areas known as “St. Vincent Plaza”, located adjacent to the Underground Pub, and its extension dubbed “Medical Mile” which will serve as the gateway to the Arkansas River Trail now under construction.

From 1996 to 2006, the River Market District has seen almost $780 million in development since its inception.

The District today

The River Market District is one of Arkansas’ fastest-growing tourist vacation destinations in the state and one of the most popular areas to live, work and play.

Since 1996, the District has transformed into a cultural, entertainment icon for the state’s capital city, and an economic power hub for Arkansas. From major conventions, concerts, and sporting events to playing host to the state’s most-visited landmark – the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park – the District has grown to be the heartbeat of downtown Little Rock.

Nearly 1 million people visited the District in 2005, and with dozens of new shops, businesses, and restaurants opening each year, the best of the River Market District is what lies ahead.

District Delights

One of the most prominent features of the River Market District is the Farmer’s Market. Held every Tuesday and Saturday from May to October, the open-air marketplace offers farm-fresh produce straight to customers from the backs of farmers’ trucks and bargains on many state crops. The unique River Market District mainstay has provided a place for Arkansas farmers to come together and present their seasonal goods to customers for over 30 years.

Living in the District

The River Market District is quickly becoming one of the hottest places to live in the Little Rock area. From lofts above businesses to lofts and condominiums popping up around every corner, there are currently 500 residential living units in the downtown Little Rock area and 3,000 more underway.

Working in the District

One of the most fascinating components in the District’s history is the number of businesses who have decided to call the River Market District home. And, why not? With dozens of new and fascinating restaurants, fun and exciting entertainment venues and bars, and incredible attractions, the District provides an environment allowing employees to step away from everyday pressures into a fun atmosphere.

Some of the nation’s largest and most successful companies have agreed. Acxiom, Stephens Inc., and Heifer International all have chosen to house their world headquarters in Little Rock‘s River Market District.

Playing in the District

Of course, one of the most popular and well-known features of the River Market District today is its variety of entertainment venues. With something for every one of all ages, the District is the place to relax and have a good time.

During the day, numerous cultural attractions provide a flurry of activity for tourists and locals. From the dynamic cultural complex featuring eight art galleries within the Arkansas Arts Center, to the Arkansas Museum of Discovery where visitors can explore the wonders of nature, science, technology, to the historic Old State House Museum which served as Arkansas’s first state capitol building, the River Market District is the place to explore Arkansas’s rich history and culture.

Patrons can grab a quick bite to eat during lunch from one of the many River Market vendors who offers a large, diverse selection of great foods and drinks at affordable prices in a fun market atmosphere, or enjoy a meal at any of the many establishments within walking distance.

By night, the District transforms into one of the hottest spots in town. Fine dining in the District reaches from Nu Cuisine to Sonny William’s Steakhouse to Vermillion Water Grille to Bosco’s. Performing arts venues such as The Arkansas Repertoire Theatre, or Robinson Center Music Hall, help provide a memorable experience as well.

If a lively, high-energy atmosphere is what you are looking for, the District’s plentiful bars and pubs offer a night on the town you’ll never forget! Sticky Fingerz Rock’n’Roll Chicken Shack not only offers great food, but has also quickly become one of the city’s most popular live-music venues usually accompanied with a hopping dance floor.

Gusano’s Chicago-Style Pizza, The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, The Flying Fish and the Underground Pub offer unique and causal atmospheres and a great selection of food, beers and mixed drinks, and whether customers can carry a tune or not, the District’s two dueling piano bars –Ernie Biggs and Willy D’s are available and located right across the street from one another on President Clinton Avenue.

Most recently, the River Market District welcomed two new restaurants to the area. The Flying Burrito of Little Rock and Rumba-Revolution opened their doors to bustling crowds during Riverfest 2006.

A new convention capital

Little Rock is fast becoming the new center of the South for conventions and meetings, and the unique and vibrant River Market District is a huge part of what is bringing them to Arkansas' capital city.

The exciting decade of growth within the River Market District is most evident by the number of major organizations that year-after-year bring their conventions to the District.

The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) World Championships has had its tournament in the District for the last 15 years. The tournament is the largest convention in the state of Arkansas, bringing approximately 20,000 visitors from five continents each year.

Other leading conventions include the Poultry Federation Annual Festival, 2006 U.S. Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championships, the Amateur Athletic Union’s Divisions One and Two Boys Basketball Tournament, and Omega Psi Phi’s International Grand Conclave.

Things to do

Cultural Attractions

The River Market District is home to some of Arkansas’ best and finest art galleries, museums, theatres, concert halls, and other entertainment venues. One can make an entire weekend of activities in the District. From building a robot at the Tech Lab in the Museum of Discovery to seeing some of Picasso’s greatest works on display at the Arkansas Arts Center or seeing a musical production at The Rep, it is easy to realize how Little Rock is big on culture.

Restaurants

Staying true to its southern roots, Little Rock natives and visitors alike head down to the River Market District where some good ‘ole southern hospitality and delicious foods rule the day. The District offers everything from fine dining to quick eats to small cafes. As well, the River Market District comes to life at night when its many bars and live-entertainment venues are packed with those out to have a fun night on the town.

Lodging

With the new River Rail trolley system and with Little Rock’s greatest restaurants and entertainment venues nearby, the River Market District offers the perfect location to stay. Park the car, save some gas money, and immerse yourself in Little Rock’s most happening area. With dozens of hotels scattered throughout the District all within a trolley ride or walking distance, the River Market District makes a perfect vacation destination.

hopping

The River Market District is the place to splurge a little and as the saying goes, “shop ‘til you drop.” Dozens of small shops sell everything from bath and body goods to antique furniture to pieces of art. As well, you can’t come to the District and not attend the historic Farmer’s Market located in the River Market Pavilion where Arkansas’ finest farmers bring their fresh produce for sale every Tuesday and Saturday. With so much to do, it’s easy to spend an entire weekend just experiencing the District’s many diverse shops.

Libraries

The River Market District’s libraries offer so much more than books. The most popular tourist attraction in the state of Arkansas is in fact a library – the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. You can also spend a day exploring and researching Arkansas’ rich heritage at the Little Rock Public Library or simply admire the building’s impressive architecture. The Clinton School of Public Service is also located adjacent to the Library.

Parks

As a state known for its natural splendor, the River Market District celebrates that with small parks scattered in this beautiful urban setting.

Real Estate

The River Market District is quickly becoming the hottest place to live in Little Rock. Currently, there are about 500 living units in the downtown area and over 3,000 more are in the works. With some of Little Rock’s most successful businesses, best restaurants, and diverse entertainment venues all nearby, there is no better place to live!

Galleries

Many of Arkansas’ finest art and exhibition galleries are located in the River Market District. The area has exhibited the works of some of Arkansas’ finest artists and many of the world’s greatest collections including Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keefe, and Rembrant.

Concert Venues

There is always an opportunity to see live music in the River Market District. Whether it is listening to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at Robinson Center Music Hall, or seeing local talent at Sticky Fingers, or going to see the Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Elton John, or Kenny Chesney at Alltel Arena, the District is Little Rock’s concert capitol.

Businesses

The River Market District is home to some of Arkansas’ most successful businesses and non-profits including the world headquarters of Heifer International, Stephens Inc., and Acxiom. The District also has almost every shape, size and form of business - from small shops to advertising and event planning agencies to furniture stores. With lots of restaurants, entertainment venues, parks and other activities all in a compact beautiful downtown setting, no wonder many of Arkansas’ most successful businesses have called the River Market District home over the past ten years.

The River Market

One of the most prominent features of the River Market District is its historic Farmers’ Market, an open-air marketplace offering farm-fresh produce straight to customers from the backs of farmers’ trucks and bargains on many of Arkansas’ best crops.

The inception for the farm-like market began in the early 1970s, beginning with an idea from one man - Jimmy Moses, Principal of Moses Tucker Real Estate and, at the time, Director of Little Rock Unlimited Progress (UP), an organization whose sole purpose was to revitalize the downtown area and increase its visibility.

Based on an idea he received on a trip to Syracuse, N.Y. for downtown conventions, he saw an outdoor market that he thought would work well for downtown Little Rock.

Beginning with a core group of families selling their goods right off the backs of their pickup trucks, the UP established the Farmers’ Market in 1974, holding the first public Market in a parking lot on Main Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets.

The Market was moved in the mid-1980s to the Metrocentre Public Parking Deck, which had been specifically designed to house the marketplace. The deck was equipped with a roof to protect against inclement weather, ceiling fans to provide air circulation, running water and restrooms.

Over time, the Market grew in both farmer participation and popularity.

The Farmers’ Market soon became a thriving place in the downtown area. One reason for the Market’s appeal was the diversity of the crowd it attracted. While restaurant chefs would come to purchase fresh produce, schools would bring students on field trips to the Market.

In the early 1990s, discussion of a new Farmers’ Market location began. The idea for a new, improved Market included resembling an actual “market”—not an adjunct to a parking deck. The planning, fundraising and construction was set in motion and the Farmer’s Market as it exists today opened to the public on July 5, 1996 in the heart of the new River Market District.

Some families travel as far as convert|90|mi|km|0 away to participate. Long-time vendors include: Glenda Fletcher and Linda Heffner (1974), Jane Reynolds and Elaine Scudder (1974), Betty Harvey (1976), David Hall (1977) and Joe Willis (1979). Participants who have participated for a decase include: Ryan Barkdull, A Hang Vang, John Vang, Cynthia Eyiuche, Karla Schaeffer, Jody Hardin and Lynn Holoch.

The Farmers’ Market is open twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May through October. For more information about the Farmers’ Market and its offerings, visit www.rivermarket.info.

ALLTEL Arena

ALLTEL Arena is the premier multi-purpose facility for Central Arkansas and River Market District events.

Located in downtown North Little Rock, AR, the convert|377000|sqft|m2|-2|sing=on-arena has a maximum seating capacity of 18,000. Serving as the home to the Arkansas RimRockers professional basketball team (NBA Development League), and the Arkansas Twisters arena Arena 2 Football league, ALLTEL arena is the hub for national entertainment.

Arena history

With Central Arkansas’ event facilities needing improvement, citizens of Pulaski County voted on August 1, 1995, to approve the addition of a one-year, one-cent sales tax with the purpose of building a new multi-function facility and expanding the Statehouse Convention Center. Twenty million dollars of the proceeds went to the expansion, while the remainder helped construct the arena. Additional contributions from the State of Arkansas, private sources and Little Rock-based ALLTEL Corporation brought the arena’s total to approximately $65.7 million.

Four years later, ALLTEL Arena was completed in October 1999. When its doors were opened, the arena was fully paid for with no public indebtedness.

ALLTEL Arena is owned by the Multi-Purpose Civic Center Facilities Board for Pulaski County. The facility was designed by the Civic Center Design Team (CCDT), Burt Taggart & Associates, Architects/Engineers, The Wilcox Group, Garver & Garver Engineering and Rosser International of Atlanta. Michael Marion has served as the facility’s general manager since it’s opening.

Arena activities

ALLTEL Arena hosts a variety of events for citizens of the Natural State, from world-renowned artists to high school graduations. The facility serves as a venue for meetings, family entertainment and trade shows as well as concerts and sporting events.

Since 1999, ALLTEL Arena has hosted some of the largest names, faces and events in entertainment for people of all ages. Children have been mesmerized by the magical appearances of Barney and The Wiggles. Families have gather to see legendary characters from the Magic Kingdom for the annual performance of Disney on Ice, and every other year the arena has hosted The Greatest Show on Earth.

The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) has held its Opening Ceremonies for their World Championships at ALLTEL Arena, drawing more than 8,000 martial arts enthusiasts from around the world. More than 10,000 tennis fans have also gathered in the facility to witness the head-to-head match play of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, two of the sport’s top athletes.

Unsurprisingly, the arena’s most-attended events are musical performances. Topping the arena attendance list are musical legends Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, The Rolling Stones, Cher, Kenny Chesney, Aerosmith and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the facility has seen it all.

Only two events have ever completely sold-out the arena, and both of them were for the same artist: country music sensation George Strait. His concert in 2006 set the ALLTEL Arena attendance record at 18,005 people, and breaking the previous record of nearly 18,000 he set at an earlier date.

Coming attractions

ALLTEL Arena’s involvement with the collegiate sports has grown over the past few years. In 2003, the arena hosted the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament, setting an all-time attendance record for an SEC Women’s Tournament with 43,642 people. Such success has led to a second hosting in 2006 and a possible return in 2009.

ALLTEL Arena will be the site for portions of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament in March 2008. In 2007, the arena will host the SEC Gymnastics Championships.


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