LITTLE ROCK — When a tornado tore through downtown Little Rock in January 1999, it destroyed dozens of houses in neighborhoods already showing the scars of urban decay.
One of the hardest hit areas was the neighborhood east of South Main between the Governor’s Mansion Historic District and the MacArthur Park Historic District.
After the debris was cleaned up and dangerous structures razed, what was left was a study in extremes – with beautifully renovated grand old homes surviving near the damaged shells of abandoned houses. And then there were the vacant lots – no block seemed to have escaped the effects of the twin terrors of urban decay and Mother Nature.
Today, however, a quick tour of the area shows that things seem to be improving. Scattered throughout are new houses – some designed to blend in with the remaining historic houses, others standing out with contemporary designs and materials.
Pettaway Neighborhood Container Home
The change is due to the efforts of numerous entities and individuals. This includes private builders who recognized the value of empty and inexpensive lots in the heart of the city, the nonprofit Downtown Little Rock Community Development Corp., which worked with the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to design and construct three houses, and, most of all, perhaps, new homeowners who were willing to buy into the future of this urban enclave.
“This neighborhood being so close to downtown is one of the reasons we’re experiencing such a strong interest in rebuilding efforts here,” says Scott Grummer, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Community Development Corp.
On a recent morning, Daniel Peurifoy of Maumelle and Jason Clem of Little Rock were atop bright yellow scaffolding, tools in hand, applying strips of siding to a house being assembled at East 19th and Cumberland streets in the Pettaway Park neighborhood. Now graduates, the pair were pitching in to help finish a project they worked on as UA architecture students. Students had designed the structure, which was mainly built in pieces in a Fayetteville warehouse.
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