LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- If you've lived in Little Rock for the past 20 years or so, you know the Riverfront area has seen a major transformation.
What was once an area people stayed away from is now filled with shops, restaurants, condos, and trails. You can see the same on the North Little Rock side as well. In our THV Extra, we take a closer look at the past, present and future of the River Front.
Whether it's a bike ride, a place for kids to play or even home in a high-rise condo, the Riverfront area offers a "basket full" of things to do.
"Little Rock, downtown, has really turned the corner," said Jimmy Moses, with Moses Tucker Real Estate.
It's a corner that Jimmy Moses helped turn. He's been on the front-end of Riverfront Development, starting in the early 1980's at what's now the entrance to the River Market.
"That area was completely desolate at the time and there was a bus station across the street," Moses said.
Moses' company turned some old warehouses at the corner of now Clinton Avenue and Cumberland Street into office and commercial space. He says a late 80s recession and voter rejection for a downtown revitalization project in the early 90s slowed the growth here. But it would take off following the construction of the River Market hall.
"That, I think, has been the primary catalyst for a billion dollars worth of investment," Moses said.
Moses was actually part of that development as President of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership at the time. He says a combined effort with city leaders and community support pulled off the market in the summer of 1996, sparking, "Everything from a new library, a museum, Dickey Stephens, Verizon Arena, all the way to the Clinton library," Moses said.
It was a boom on both sides of the river that would also include housing. Moses says his firm started with five apartments above Gusano's restaurant.
"Today, there are over 500 residential units in a three-four block radius of where we sit," Moses said. "I think the best is literally yet to come but very close to coming and happening downtown."
His firm's working on more retail and residential pieces along Clinton Avenue while across the river in North Little Rock construction crews turn the dirt on a future road leading to new apartments opening next month. The complex is called the Riverside at Rockwater. And just in front of them, "This will be the walkway to the Marina down to the marina," Jim Jackson said.
Developer Jim Jackson is behind the $1.6 million Rockwater Marina. It will fill all this brush, starting with 80 boat slips by late September and filling out with 136 slips.
"There's no other marina in this pool from Pine Bluff until you get to the other side of the Lock and Dam and go to the Little Rock Yacht Club, so we thought there would be a whole lot of interest," Jackson said.
It's another need being met along the river, with one more in the works back on the Little Rock side.
"The City Manger, the mayor, the city board have all said this is important and we need to find a way to close this gap," Bryan Day said.
Assistant City Manager Bryan Day is talking about getting River Trail bikers off the street and onto a path, meeting up with existing trails. He says the city's leaning toward a design along the river. And while there are no specific plans to share yet, Day says, "I think that I would say that there's enough synergy and enough energy and dedication and commitment from the city to get this done, that something will happen I think sooner than five years."
It's one more piece to add down the road and make this Riverfront even greater.
As for the gap in the River Trail, Day says the city actually applied for a $10 million federal grant to help fund that project but found out late last year that it was denied.
He did say as part of the process, the city did a lot of groundwork needed to pursue it, so they do have that work out of the way as they move forward.
Once the River Trail is completed it will take bicyclists from downtown Little Rock all the way to Pinnacle Mountain. Day did mention other options for filling the gap, like going along the railroad tracks or widening Cantrell Road right-of-ways. But again the city's top choice is path along the river.