East Village Revitalization Takes Shape

May 1, 2024

Just across the I-30, between Ninth Street and the banks of the Arkansas River, lies a quaint area full of modern eateries and historic charm. Little Rock’s East Village is one of the current areas in the city experiencing redevelopment in hopes of attracting people to the capital city. But what about the area, makes it a hub for innovation and revitalization?

The History

The Distillery

Fidel & Co at The Distillery East Village

East Village was originally developed as Little Rock’s first industrial district in the late 1800s. Through the mid-1900s, the area boasted cotton mills, freight and lumber yards, factories and worker housing developments.

In 2001, the neighborhood received a boost in attention when construction on the Clinton Presidential Library began. Since then some of the city’s most popular restaurants and coffee shops — Fidel & Co., Sterling Market, Camp Taco — have made East Village their home. Rock Dental Brands, Entergy and Heifer International have also made their way on over.

The Potential

“If you look at what all is included in that boundary, you’ve got a real complete neighborhood, and one that’s pretty rare,” said Dan Fowler, president of Cromwell Architects Engineers. “It’s got an airport. It’s got a presidential library and nonprofits. It’s got a traditional residential neighborhood. So it’s got an identity which really is all rooted in the history of the neighborhood being primarily industrial.”

Cromwell, a full-service architecture, engineering and building services firm, moved its headquarters to the East Village area in 2018, becoming the area’s forerunning revitalization project.

“We really saw and felt like there was a great opportunity to create something special for the city and to create something special for our own team,” said Fowler. “It’s almost a blank canvas here with a lot of foundation, a lot of bones… we felt would be some great opportunities.”

The Paint Factory

The Paint Factory – Home to Cromwell Architects Engineers in East Village

If you take the variety of restaurants and retail in the area, plus a couple of new hotels, and pair them with the Village’s proximity to Little Rock’s downtown, it’s no wonder East Village is constantly in growth mode.

This small but mighty commercial district is a prime location for building and fostering a community.

“[The area] gives us an opportunity to redevelop building and redevelop spaces that are rooted in some really historical foundations, as opposed to something that is just created out in a green field somewhere… that, from an experience perspective, is a much richer, tangible connection to the past and what this place was for our community and what it can be in the future,” said Fowler.

The People

In 2013, East Village welcomed what is now one of the most notable brands in the area: Lost Forty Brewing, a microbrewery with a variety of beers and seltzers, all crafted here in downtown Little Rock. “Lost Forty was looking for a home with a large footprint to host a manufacturing and production brewing facility and a restaurant venue. We were open to looking at spaces outside of Little Rock but were hoping to find a location near downtown to become a destination for those traveling to or through Arkansas,” said Amber Brewer, creative director and chief marketing officer for Yellow Rocket Concepts, the parent company of Lost Forty. “The Hangar Hill area seemed to check all the boxes — large commercial industrial space with room for growth, great proximity to signature Little Rock destinations and events, ample room for trucks, loading docks and manufacturing infrastructure, parking — all in an area suited for commercial traffic.”

The brewery has thrived in the area, so much so that another Yellow Rocket Concepts brand, Camp Taco, also made East Village its home. The two brands also make a point to participate in and support other local businesses and events in the neighborhood, often through collaborative projects.

“The creativity and variety that local businesses bring is imperative to building and maintaining a unique, robust city that’s exciting to visit and live in,” Brewer said. “Adding volume and variety in the East Village to expand the experience of working in, traveling in and living in downtown Little Rock is very important to us as residents and business owners. A growing, dimensional downtown  improves the richness of the community and can add to making Little Rock an attractive place to live and work.

Article published in Arkansas Business East Village Revitalization Takes Shape

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