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The Argenta Downtown Council wants to redecorate and add accessories to the parking lot behind the Argenta Branch library to help it fit in with the revamped area of North Little Rock.

Chris Kent, executive director for the Argenta Downtown Council Inc., spoke Monday morning to the library board for William F. Laman Public Library about potential outdoor space renovation. He said the Argenta Branch library is a great asset to the area and the council wanted to help it find its place in the changing environment.

The Argenta Downtown Council, along with Hannah Ratzlaff, exterior design consultant for Main Street Arkansas, and Greg Nabholz, a commissioner with the Argenta Central Business Improvement District, developed a design that includes interactive sidewalks, a micro-park, creative public seating, a landscape bump-out and paved play areas.

The site plan concept includes installing sidewalk infrastructure and additional parking space along the east side of Poplar Street. This involves removing parking from rear of Argenta Library.

Kent presented this design to the board and mentioned how the outdoor areas would provide additional parking and a potential for a stage in the current lot behind the library.

"We believe the overhead behind the library is a natural place for a stage," he said. "It's space that could be rented out."

Board chairman Valerie McLean said the idea for a stage on the backside of the library seemed to make sense.

Crystal Gates, president of the Arkansas Library Association and executive director of the Laman Public Library System, said to make this idea possible some things may need to be moved, including putting the library drop box on Poplar Street.

"This allows traffic to have access to it," she said.

The redesign could increase the library parking at the Argenta Branch from six to nine spots, but Kent said the additional parking probably wouldn't be needed for some time due to the covid-19 pandemic.

"It might be a while before people come back to the area," he said. "Most of the restaurants in the district won't reopen till June."

The Argenta Downtown Council, is a nonprofit organization that works to promote economic development in Argenta. Over the past year, the area has seen the unveiling of Argenta Plaza and the development of the First Orion building.

The city's $5.4 million plaza project at 510 N. Main St. will feature jetted fountains with LED-lit streams of water, a "front porch" area with modern swings, a 50-foot-long cascading water wall, a 40-foot-tall video screen and a "backyard" area with trees.

The plaza will be the centerpiece for an area that eventually will include the First Orion office building on the back side of the plaza and a Power & Ice indoor food court on the north side. The three-story, 600 Main Building that is also to the plaza's north, will house two private companies along with the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

First Orion started this month moving about 200 employees into the 75,000-square-foot facility. The five-story headquarters is an $18 million investment that highlights growth in Argenta and is a showcase for North Little Rock, officials said.

Kent said the site plan for the library also includes painting the parking lot pavement to mimic a plaza pattern or with engaging colors. He also mentioned further landscaping the green space to the south of the parking lot and designating it as a micro-park with creative seating for outdoor reading.

Board member Vicki Matthews cautioned the idea of benches being used in the revamp because of the potential of the unsheltered using it as a bed.

Kent agreed that was a possibility and a reason why there aren't many benches in the Argenta area currently. He mentioned security officers in the area could potentially patrol to prevent loitering on benches.

"We have to figure out a way to get past that because we want to give people a place to sit," he said.

Kent said the entire project still needs to be priced before it can be finalized.

"These are easy ideas to implement, but there will be a cost attached to it," Kent said. "We got some availability to some grant money and maybe we can get some contributions from places around it -- for example First Orion."

Robin Campbell, spokesman for the library system, said the system is especially excited about the interactive nature of the plans and appreciated the Argenta Downtown Council's help in connecting them with the community and downtown improvements.

"Extending the sidewalk from the plaza will lead to a more walkable neighborhood, and the proposed green space will be designed for potential outdoor events," he said.

Metro on 05/12/2020

Print Headline: Argenta library upgrades proposed


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