Plan­ning starts for Park Hill’s ‘pop up’

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Vol­un­teers have be­gun brain­storm­ing on at­trac­tions for North Lit­tle Rock’s Park Hill neigh­bor­hood dur­ing an event one week­end this fall to show what the com­mu­nity can be if the at­trac­tions be­came per­ma­nent.

Pop Up in the Rock — now in its third year — is an event put on by stu­dioMain and Create Lit­tle Rock, an arm of the Lit­tle Rock Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce. Event or­ga­niz­ers, vol­un­teers and neigh­bor­hood res­i­dents work to­gether to trans­form a cho­sen area into a vi­brant ur­ban com­mu­nity to gain mo­men­tum for per­ma­nent ad­di­tions.

This year, the group chose to fo­cus on Park Hill, a pri­mar­ily res­i­den­tial area off John F. Kennedy Boule­vard in North Lit­tle Rock. The group also has an­nounced the lo­ca­tion of next year’s pop-up event as West Ninth Street in Lit­tle Rock be­tween Broad­way and State Street.

At an or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing Mon­day night, the group formed com­mit­tees and talked about a time­line for host­ing the Park Hill event, which is ten­ta­tively sched­uled for Sept. 13.

“One thing we hope to ac­com­plish is to make Park Hill walk­a­ble,” co-chair­man Bethany Berry said.

“A big hur­dle we have to over­come is that JFK is a high­way. We see that it blocks one side of Park Hill from the other. We want to fo­cus on some­what mak­ing multi-mo­bile trans­porta­tion, whether it be through bike lanes or ac­tu­ally just mak­ing cross­walks safer. We want to bridge the gap from what res­i­dents say JFK has pro­vided.”

Be­fore, pop-up events have fo­cused on a par­tic­u­lar street for a cer­tain stretch, but what’s unique about Park Hill is that it of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to fo­cus on a en­tire block or blocks and in­volve an en­tire com­mu­nity, Berry said.

Last year, Pop Up trans­formed Seventh Street in Lit­tle Rock, and the year be­fore, its makeshift bike lanes and event on South Main Street were in­stru­men­tal in per­suad­ing city of­fi­cials to re­stripe and put in bike lanes there.

“With just a lit­tle bit of duct tape, a Satur­day morn­ing and a few vol­un­teers, we were able to show a plan many had tried to im­ple­ment, but with a vis­ual we were able to get more peo­ple on board to im­ple­ment that change per­ma­nently,” Berry said of South Main Street.

A re­cent Jump Start grant for Park Hill will help in the plan­ning. The grant, a Metro­plan and Imag­ine Cen­tral Arkansas ini­tia­tive, will aid the city in “jump-start­ing” projects based on Metro­plan’s long-range plan­ning goals in Park Hill.

After plan­ning is com­plete, the city can ap­ply for an im­ple­men­ta­tion grant. The city’s Fit 2 Live co­or­di­na­tor, Ber­nadette Rhodes, said the pop-up event can help show peo­ple what can be achieved.

“The idea is that more peo­ple will come into the area. It will be­come more of a des­ti­na­tion for en­ter­tain­ment and for shop­ping, and it will in­crease the eco­nomic vi­tal­ity, as well,” Rhodes said.

At Mon­day’s meet­ing, vol­un­teers signed up for seven com­mit­tees that will in­di­vid­u­ally fo­cus on streets, land­scap­ing, mar­ket­ing, en­ter­tain­ment ven­dors and other ar­eas. More vol­un­teers are needed and can get in touch with event or­ga­niz­ers through the Face­book page Pop Up in the Rock.