When Petula Clark was belting out “Downtown” on KAAY (1090 on your dial) or on the Ed Sullivan Show – or on my little stereo, because, yes, I owned the album in elementary school – the lyrics weren’t far-fetched at all.
Even in Little Rock, Arkansas, before the late 1970s, downtown was exciting, vibrant, a place to be. Few things were more thrilling in junior high in the late ‘60s than getting up on a Saturday morning, getting dolled up in our mod clothes (and, once we were allowed to wear it, our mod Yardley of London makeup) and catching the bus from Indian Hills to downtown Little Rock for the day.
Oh, the stories I could tell, the memories I could share – and I will, but not right now. Because downtown is alive again, or at least waking up, and that’s what this is about.
Exciting times are here for downtown dwellers, thanks to people with vision – like our friend and Southside Main Street Patron Saint Anita Davis, she of Bernice Garden, the mural next to The Root Cafe, the Cornbread Festival, and a host of other SOMA projects.
Tonight was the fourth Bernice Garden Sculpture Party and Fall Fest. It was hopping and happening, and if you missed it, you missed out.
We were a little south of the old downtown retail area of the bus trips of old, but I still managed to run into two high school friends, just like in the old days.
My friend Kerry owns Dreamland Ballroom, another downtown-revival dream-coming-true. We’re so proud of what she’s doing to restore a noble building with an important history.
Visiting with my friend Toni made me feel like a kid again, even as we discussed our impending 40-year high school reunion. (What? Us??)
This has been a good week for downtowners, and Tuesday was a huge day for the future of downtown. I was moved to tears by the presentation at City Hall of plans (and hopes and dreams) for the creative corridor that is in the works thanks to an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, matching city funds, private investments and more people with vision.
The photos of downtown in the glory days had to have made more eyes than mine misty, but the incredible vision of Stephen Luoni and Marlon Blackwell for the future that could await us is what moves me so – and fills me with hope.
The fences are up around the buildings between Capitol and Sixth. The Rep (where compadre and fellow downtowner Julia and I saw a great Henry V Wednesday night) is going to have artsy neighbors. It’s happening, baby.
Believe it or nay-say (as many continue to do), but exciting times are returning to downtown. You wait and see. The baby steps toward revitalization are getting a longer. Before you know it, we’ll be making great strides.
And someday my grandkids will be talking about the fun they have downtown.