As suburbs continue to grow and developing infrastructure caters to commuters, some groups and investors are attempting to revitalize Little Rock neighborhoods by encouraging urban living.
“Cities weren’t built for cars; cities were built for people,” said Mason Ellis, a PopUp in the Rock organizer. He and a team of other volunteers are attempting to change the way people see Little Rock. The annual PopUp in the Rock events started in 2012 with the South Main neighborhood. Each year local volunteers and members of Create Little Rock, a young professionals organization, and studioMAIN, a nonprofit design collective, pick a neighborhood and transform it for three weeks to show the community, business owners and the city the possibilities.
The 2018 PopUp in the Rock was June 16 to July 7 in the Stifft Station neighborhood, centered where Markham meets Kavanaugh, and organizers say it was their most ambitious, with the goal of convincing the city to remove a lane from an active street.
Once Markham Street was widened to four lanes, critics of that decision say it limited the sidewalk and increased traffic speed to the detriment of the local businesses and residents.
Brian Teeter, a real estate investor based in Little Rock, purchased three empty spaces on Markham near Kavanaugh. Those spaces were filled with vendors and an art gallery during the pop up event.
Teeter is a fan of the proposed street lane removal proposed by the pop up organizers. “Markham was widened to four lanes, and it’s just basically become a speedway. […] I think the road diet proposal would really help to calm traffic down, make it more user-friendly for pedestrians, for bicycle traffic. All those things I think would be great for the neighborhood and community as a whole.”
The road diet included removing a lane from part of Markham and redirecting traffic to reduce the speed of vehicles and help people feel safer while walking down on the sidewalk.
Organizers partnered with a local traffic engineer to collect data on traffic counts and speeds. They are compiling that information with data from local businesses to create a report to give to the city.