"When you look at a city, it's like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it."--Hugh Newell Jacobsen, American architect
Committed to its metropolitan university mission, UA Little Rock is a partner in Little Rock's thriving cultural community, a major component of the city's economic development, and a resource for the neighborhoods surrounding the campus.
The faculty, staff, students and alumni of the university are proud to call Little Rock home. We live here, work here, raise families, play and serve our community here. Our teachers and researchers are engaged in numerous partnerships and programs across our community, applying the university's vast expertise and knowledge to solve problems, to develop policy, and to plan with other city leaders for city-wide growth. We educate the nurses, accountants, computer analysts, social workers and engineers who become employees of the city's industries and institutions.
In 1949, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock moved to a donated 80-acre tract of land on then-unpaved Hayes Street. That street eventually was renamed University Avenue and since then, the university has grown as an anchor institution of the city, especially in our area of Little Rock that lies south of I-630.
Years ago, the university worked with the neighborhoods located around the campus to form the University District. Through the University District Partnership, new homes have been constructed, neighborhood associations and crime watches have formed, infrastructure for sidewalks and street improvements have been built, healthy initiatives have been created, and community garden plots have been raised. All of us who live and work in this district have committed to building a strong, vibrant neighborhood.
Recently, Mayor Frank Scott announced the results of the 2020 census, including the news that Little Rock for the first time had topped 200,000 in population and had continued to grow since the last count. That's good news for our city.
But there are concerns about the type of growth for the overall central Arkansas region; as described by Metroplan, the region is not growing enough from in-migration of new residents. What do we need to ensure that Little Rock continues to be an attractive destination for new professionals, young families, the creative class? What do we need to compete with other growing, vibrant cities in the U.S. southeast region? What do we need to make sure our city builds a bright future for the next generation and beyond?
Little Rock is a great city, but it takes the work of all of us to grow our economy, improve our infrastructure, and invest in education. The residents of Little Rock have the opportunity to vote for the Rebuild the Rock initiative with a new penny sales tax. Funds will go toward early childhood education, improved public safety, road improvements and resurfacing, economic development initiatives to support and grow local businesses, improvements to parks, athletic and recreational facilities across the city including the Little Rock Zoo, affordable housing, and homeless assistance.
Our investment now will help ensure that all of Little Rock faces a bright future.
Christina Drale is chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.