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Little Rock - Conway area Pulaski, Faulkner, Grant, Lonoke, Perry, and Saline Counties
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Old 02-27-2009, 02:17 PM
 
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It can be hard to review a place in three days, but it sure is much easier when you drive over 400 miles throughout one city. Indeed that is what I managed to do in three days. I had a heck of an offer in LR, and I had to check out the whole town. That said, while I think LR may be a little underrated, it mostly deserves the reputation it gets.

1) Downtown. I was quite surprised by some of the height in the highrises, but I was appalled at the lack of pedestrian activity on two warm business days. Also, the level of surface lots and car culture in LR is disgusting. Honestly, there wasn't much of anything in the downtown area that was impressive. The Little Rock Arts center was ok, and probably the thing that impressed me most about downtown was the Weekend Theatre, where I went to a show. Other than that, it feels very empty. To the west of downtown, lies the caitol area, which I found to be very disappointed and not as picturesque as many capitol cities I have seen. That said, the quapaw historic district was nice and I saw some great revival homes there. I also enjoyed the bluffs just to the west of downtown.

2) RiverMarket. Outside Hillcrest, this is the highlight of Little Rock. Still, the dirth of nightlife in this district on BOTH a thurs and fri was disheartening. Piano bars seems to be the thing in this district, and Willy D's is the big spot. I thought the Clinton Libray was very nice, and I enjoyed how LR was trying to take back the riverfront. There is much more work to be done though. The River Market itself looks cooler from NLR across the river than it is in person. It is kind of cute, but it is very small and closes early. The coffee shop there kicked me out by dinner time on Wed due to closing! The highlight of this district for me were the historic hotels, and I found the Peabody to be almost as nice as the one in memphis. With regards to the trolley, I rode its entire loop and only one other person got on the whole time. You can tell that downtown's residential district is located along its route, and I though the two midsized condo towers downtown looked very nice. I also took my car and the trolley into North Little Rock.

3) North Little Rock. This seems to be a town stuck in circa 1970's. It seemed very dated almost every where I drove, and there was no pedestrian activity, even in the Argenta district. The bars in that area were also dead on a Friday night. While Argenta is cute, with a couple artsy shops and a neighborhood association, I didn't find it to be compelling to an urbanite. It felt more like a quaint town trying to reinvent itself. That said, I thought the townhome developments looked nice along the trolley route, even if they were a bit cookie cutter. heading further north, there is a small hood in NLR, followed by a 1960's ares suburban area known as Park Hill, which had a small historic area that was fairly dead although it had a few retail options. It seemed the nicest homes in NLR from a historic perspective were around the Old Mill, which I thought was cool. Sherwood looked like your basic small town suburb with basic strip retail. Lakewood and the the mall area seemed ok.

4) Hillcrest and the Heights. I am grouping these together, because I don't see much diffence. Although these dsitricts are the highlight of LR, I was very unimpressed. The retail along Kavanaugh is so spread out that it is hard to give the area an urban feel. I did thouroughly enjoy the homes and the topography heading up towards reservoir park, which had a more upscale historic feel than anywhere I saw in LR. The restaurants I ate at in Hillcrest were ok. Leo's Greek Castle was ok, and while not authentic Greek (super Americanized in there), I enjoyed the food. I also noticed the servers in that area to have a bit of the hipster vibe I yearn for in any city.
That said, this entire area after dark was almost completely dead, and since I was staying at a hotel nearby downtown, I made it to this area all three nights to check it out, and by 9, almost the entire street of Kavanugh was dark, with no pedestrian activity, or even runners or people walking their dog (and the temp was easily in the 50s or 60s).

5) East of Broadway and the South End. Although LR south of 630 and east of broadway has virtually no retail, I did enjoy that some of the historic Victorian mansions in that area were being fixed up. I also noticed two rainbow flags in that area, which I thoght to be a good thing for Arkansas. I will talk about the seedy, yet hipster odd nightlife scene at Midtown Billiards in this area shortly.

6) Central and SW Little Rock. The area located around Central High, although once probably very nice, reminded me of a dirty south rap video. I was very suprised to see the amount of thugs and low riding, candy painted donks that I did in LR. Lots of caddys with 22 inch rims, and plenty of boarded up houses. I didn't think the ghetto was too bad, but I think for a city of Little Rock's size, it certainly was. I didn't log nearly as many miles in this hood as others, but the appaling lack of retail or businesses in this area was disgusting. SW Little Rock had a more dated 1960's suburban feel, complete with some ethnic shopping strip malls catering to African Americans and Hispanic. I though this area was ok, amd I did manage to find a wonderful and authentic taco trailer where I had a nice Gordita Also, I went to a very redneck country bar called Electric Cowboy. This is actually a chain out of Texas, and they even have a location in Louisville, where I now reside. The location in LR was an interesting display of redneck meets wanna be thug culture. The MMA fight that night featured a white versus a black fighter, and I was appalled by some of the commentary I heard from some of the white patrons. Little Rock is definitely very much in line with the DEEP south.....


7) East LR/Airport. This was a very run down, decrepid old African American neighborhood full of boared up houses, urban prairie, and light industry. Enough said. Also, this was a very tiny airport. I thought it was funny the car rental lady at Alamo got rude with me. She said she needed to see an flight itenerary. I told her I have traveled across the world and only seen this one other place. Oh well.

8) Chenal Valley. This is the southern well too do, see and be seen, country club/big church going suburb of LR. I was shocked at the apraw in this area and how far it spread down Chenal Pkwy. It was clear the poeple in this area wanted nothing to do with the city. For typical chain retail, I actually found Chenal to have decent big box stores. However, the retail scene in LR is sorely lacking. The lifestyle center, promenade at Chenal, looked like it was still under construction the day I was there, and it was very small and virtually dead. Very few good stores were open, and I was suprised to see LR didnt even have a Jcrew yet, altough a coming soon sign was up.

9) Midtown. This area runs along a spine up and down University and hosts many of the medical professionals in the community who do not live in Hillcrest. It was your typical 1950's ranch home style area, and the retail scene in this area was very underwhelming as well. The people who interviewed me took me to Cantina Laredo, which I found to be underwhelming tex mex food. I kind of decided that the foodie scene in LR, while better than many smaller mid american cities like Peoria, couldn't hang with the midsized cities of the south and midwest. The Universty Mall was reduced to an empty sign and what must have been 50 acres of unsightly gravel and fencing. The Park Plaza Mall, while seemingly nice, has very few good retail options. I did like its 3 story layout. The Univ of Ark at LR is a dumpy suburban campus with no life at all and strictly a commuter school. enough said on that too.

Although I went to bars wed, thurs, and fri, I want to detail more of my nightlife experience on Thurs. You have already read about the peculiar Electric Cowboy, but I wanted to catalogue the life at some of the other bars in town. The night started at Creegan's in Argenta, which was completely dead. This is no exaggeration, there was my party and 4 other people in the whole bar. Walking out and noticing the smallish Alltell arena, I thought that this area must be dead except on event nights at Alltell (which must be rare given there are no major college or pro teams anywhere nearby).
We next went down to River Market. This is the only walkable bar district in town, and despite the lack of cars, this was the only area in all of the metro where I saw pedestrian activity after dark. Chip N dales had an event going on, so all the bars (which had people) were full of guys. Big Whiskey's seemed to be the most tolerable place for us and had by far the most professional crowd. It seemed like a lot of after work people and was a pretty good time. After that, I was appaled by some of the things I saw in LR. By 1030, virtually everybar on President Clinton was dead, but Ernie Bigg's and Willy D's still had at least a few people. My hosts and I were having a martini when we were approched by a peculiar southern sounding lady in a cast and wide gap teeth. I couldn't understand her so we kind of brushed her off, but she said "did ya hear?" I was like "What?" She then proceeded to tell me that a girl was getting kicked out of the bar for giving a bj to a guy in the bathroom. I didn't believe her, but sure enough, as I walked towards the bathroom, she was getting escorted out. I asked the bartender about it, and he said she was well known around town, and had done the same thing in another bar last week! WOW. At this point, I am trying to be nice to my hosts, who are trying to recruit me for a professional job, but I was quite appalled. They thought it was funny, and I guess it was. We had a couple more drinks, and our host DD drove us to Midtown Billiards because the other bars were closed (the 2 am closing time seems so early to me). Midtown Billiards was a trip. It was a very dirty dive bar but it had a bit of a hipster feel that I kind of liked. You know, the kind of place that sells 2 dollar tall PBRs. Ok, I can hang with that. I saw the server I was hitting on earlier in the night at electric cowboy in there. I also saw about a half dozen people there i recognized seeing that day....must be a very small town for the nightlife scene. Midtown was the most diverse place I saw in LR. It was thugs, hipsters, white black, and even a black transvestite who must have been on some trippy drugs. It was actually good to see this diversity together in LR, and hey, Midtown had some sweet and dirty good burgers.

All in all, LR does have some culture, but it was a culture shock for this Chicagoan now living in Louisville. I don't think I will be taking the job, but I was asked to review the city by jbchris. I don't think LR has enough of a professional vibe for me, and certainly not enough good restaurants and an urban, pedestrian culture.

Last edited by Peter1948; 02-27-2009 at 02:30 PM..

 
Old 02-27-2009, 02:41 PM
 
Location: Chicago, IL
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I agree with you on: the car culture, lack of pedestrian activity, Sherwood (interesting you say that about it because my mom and I were saying there isn't anything all that special about it...you can drive through it and not find anything all that unique that makes you just want to stay there....),sprawl, and yes UALR is a commuter school.

I'm sorry it didn't live up to your expectations or standards. Different strokes for different folks.
Maybe in a few years we'll get better on that professional urban vibe. I'm hoping a new urbanism movement will sprout up.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 02:51 PM
 
60 posts, read 108,554 times
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Default So Glad You Don't Want to Live in LR

Frankly, the people who live in LR like it just the way it is and would prefer if you don't like it to find somewhere else because we don't need or for that matter want you here.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 02:52 PM
 
Location: Charlotte, NC (in my mind)
7,947 posts, read 9,372,280 times
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Your review of Little Rock is pretty much spot on. While Little Rock might be slightly underrated because it's not horrible especially for people wanting to settle down, it's DEFINITELY not for the young single looking for an urban experience. A big part of the reason the streets here roll up at sunset is because this is a very religious and conservative town. Most people get married and start having kids in their late teens-early twenties, so there isn't much of a singles scene, and it takes a vibrant singles scene to have vibrant nightlife. You would probably like Fayetteville a lot better. It's younger and more liberal though quite a bit smaller than Little Rock. I'll be back on here in a bit to address your other concerns...
 
Old 02-27-2009, 03:36 PM
 
1,703 posts, read 4,151,046 times
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I think the OP is terribly presumptuous and ill-informed in many--though not all--of his spot judgments. I'm not surprised because the list of questions he posed prior to his visit made it clear he had already formed an opinion before ever visiting. I'm not sure what his point in belittling LR is, but hopefully he feels better now.

I cannot imagine visiting a place, then deliberately seeking out people who live there to tell them what a terrible place it is. My mother raised me better.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 04:02 PM
 
Location: Charlotte, NC (in my mind)
7,947 posts, read 9,372,280 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by strumpeace View Post
I think the OP is terribly presumptuous and ill-informed in many--though not all--of his spot judgments. I'm not surprised because the list of questions he posed prior to his visit made it clear he had already formed an opinion before ever visiting. I'm not sure what his point in belittling LR is, but hopefully he feels better now.

I cannot imagine visiting a place, then deliberately seeking out people who live there to tell them what a terrible place it is. My mother raised me better.
The truth is different locales cater to different kinds of people. A young, liberal urban minded hipster will naturally like Little Rock about as much as a Bible thumping redneck will like San Francisco. It don't think the OP's point was as much that Little Rock is a horrible town as much as it's totally at odds with his lifestyle. I am afraid though that he could be making a mistake in this economy by turning down the job if the offer was that great. Memphis is only a couple hours away and it would be an easy weekend getaway whenever he needs to experience an urban vibe, cultural amenities, or good retail. Little Rock does have things to enjoy about it. Enjoy the natural beauty and the many nearby state parks. Enjoy the clean, fresh air. Enjoy not having to spend hours on the freeways tied up in traffic. Enjoy the Southern hospitality. You can be happy anywhere if you get rid of your mental block.

Last edited by bchris02; 02-27-2009 at 04:15 PM..
 
Old 02-27-2009, 04:18 PM
 
157 posts, read 330,047 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlendaRN View Post
Frankly, the people who live in LR like it just the way it is and would prefer if you don't like it to find somewhere else because we don't need or for that matter want you here.
Please excuse those with inferiority complexes.

Thanks for the honesty, stx. I think you came here with lofty expectations for a city that's 180k, but we're working on it.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 04:23 PM
 
Location: Charlotte, NC (in my mind)
7,947 posts, read 9,372,280 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ridicter View Post
Please excuse those with inferiority complexes.

Thanks for the honesty, stx. I think you came here with lofty expectations for a city that's 180k, but we're working on it.
True. Instead of comparing Little Rock to Louisville, he should be comparing it to places like Springfield, MO and Jackson, MS. Except for retail which is obviously horrible in LR, I think it holds well against many of it's peers.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 04:27 PM
 
1,703 posts, read 4,151,046 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bchris02 View Post
True. Instead of comparing Little Rock to Louisville, he should be comparing it to places like Springfield, MO and Jackson, MS. Except for retail which is obviously horrible in LR, I think it holds well against many of it's peers.
Exactly. Little Rock's peer cities are not Louisville and Chicago. They are Grand Rapids, Augusta, Mobile, Amarillo, Chattanooga, Jackson, Huntsville, etc.

BTW, bchris, you mention Memphis in an earlier post as a getaway destination. Visit the Memphis board, and you'll see the same kind of critiques pointed at it -- and it's twice the size of Louisville and four times the size of LR.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 05:10 PM
 
Location: Charlotte, NC (in my mind)
7,947 posts, read 9,372,280 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by strumpeace View Post
BTW, bchris, you mention Memphis in an earlier post as a getaway destination. Visit the Memphis board, and you'll see the same kind of critiques pointed at it -- and it's twice the size of Louisville and four times the size of LR.
While I think Memphis is incredibly lacking for a city of nearly 700K, it does offer a substantial amount more in the way of nightlife, urban, and cultural amenities than Little Rock does, mostly because of its size. Memphis is close enough for a quick trip, even on a Friday night. Many Little Rock twentysomethings go party in Memphis on the weekends. Dallas is a much better city than both of them but its a four and a half hour drive and with traffic its not such a quick and easy trip.

To the OP...do you have multiple job offers on the table? If not, do you think you would be so unhappy living in Little Rock that it would be worth turning down a great offer?
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