For the past seven years North Little Rock has been participating in the Jump Start program with the Levy and Park Hill neighborhoods. Jump Start is an economic development project funded through Metroplan using money from the Department of Transportation. It was a competitive grant program and North Little Rock received two of the five grants available.
It is a holistic approach to economic development, encompassing not only physical improvement to infrastructure but also looking at creating zoning overlay districts affecting building codes and allowable business uses in the target areas. There is an emphasis on mixed use residential and commercial development. (Commercial on the bottom floor and residential on the upper levels.) A major consideration when planning the development of each site was the participants desire to increase the walkability of the target areas. The area in Levy ran along Camp Robinson Road and Pike Avenue from 33rd to 37th Streets. The area in Park Hill is JFK Blvd from A to H Avenues.
Over the past seven years a large number of public meetings were held. Local businesses and residents were notified of the meetings through mailings that went to each house and business, through social media invitations, and through personal invitations. Every business from 33rd to 37th (and beyond) received both mailings and personal invitations. The same can be said for businesses from A to H in Park Hill. For several years monthly meetings of the JumpStart Committee were held, soliciting input on all aspects of the project. All meetings were open to the public for input. Neighborhood notifications preceded major meetings. Jump Start was also involved in neighborhood events in both areas from Levy Day to Park Hill’s Tour De Bark and Patio events. Overseen by Metroplan, JumpStart has been the most transparent publicly driven economic development project in recent memory.
Property owners, business owners, and neighborhood residents looked at zoning regulations and revamped them for overlay districts for each area. Each neighborhood personalized the district (including allowable uses and design standards) for each neighborhood. A major goal that came out of planning meetings was to improve the walkability of each business corridor. Increasing the possibility of having residential properties above commercial businesses. Offering the possibility of diverse income streams for property owners was also a consideration.
It is hoped that improving the commercial corridor in both neighborhoods, increasing the walkability, attracting new customers and growth of businesses will positively affect the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the business districts. Both neighborhood associations and both business associations were heavily involved in the projects from the beginning.
Jump Start plans are available online at the City’s home page (NLR.ar.gov) under the Jumpstart header.
Levy’s improvements of Camp Robinson Road and Pike Avenue are more dramatic than Park Hill’s because Camp Robinson Road is not a state highway subject to AHTD regulation while JFK Boulevard is a state highway (HWY 107). Concerns expressed by businesses and property owners were addressed when possible by developers. Levy adopted a more lenient list of allowable businesses.
Park Hill’s allowable business list is more conservative. Park Hill requires new buildings to be built closer to the street with parking behind and a wider sidewalk separated from the roadway by a green space. (A close example is Kavanaugh Blvd in Hillcrest/Heights in Little Rock, but add residences on top of the business buildings there and a greenspace protecting the sidewalk from the street.) Park Hill’s plan also calls for closing some driveways. Counting side street entrances, one block has thirteen driveways serving six buildings. So many driveways make safe walking difficult for pedestrians.
Traffic calming is a significant part of both projects. Safely walking along the streets will be enhanced with wider sidewalks and slowing traffic to acceptable speeds. The traffic medians in Park Hill are being maintained as required by the Highway Department.
In summary, both Levy and Park Hill have received large grants to improve the business corridors. After years of open public meetings with hundreds of business owners, property owners, residents, and interested citizens, those plans are nearing completion. Levy has completed its construction in early 2022, while Park Hill begins its construction in May 2022.
For questions about, feedback on or to get involved with Jump Start, please contact:
Jump Start Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-442-5329