A meeting between city leaders and key stakeholders took place Tuesday morning to kickoff the Markham Street redevelopment project followed by a walking tour down Markham Street.

The Markham Street project was selected as one of five programs for Imagine Central Arkansas’ Jump Start program.

The Jump Start program pairs city leaders, neighborhood groups, businesses and property owners with professional planning consultants for help with urban planning and design as well as market analysis.

"The project will provide a working plan for private developers to redevelop Markham Street," said Scott Grummer, community development block grant program manager. "There will also be a lot of studies conducted to provide tools for investors to hit the ground running."

During the walking tour, private and public entities as well as community representatives assessed Markham Street, taking note of the street’s strengths and weaknesses.

Gateway Planning, a professional planning consultant company from Dallas that provides town-planning, transportation-design and economic-development services, brought a team of urban designers and associates to Tuesday’s kickoff and tour.

Brad Lonberger, vice president and partner of Gateway Planning, said Markham Street is the ideal way to connect Hendrix to downtown.

"It’s an amazing approach, but there’s no sidewalks," he said.

To create a walkable street, Gateway Planning will include new sidewalks, painted bike lanes and street trees in their plans for the Markham Street redevelopment.

Lonberger said Gateway Planning will create a plan to identify the most ideal cross section for Markham Street, a way to implement a storm water management system, how utilities should be handled and figure out what the development context should look like in terms of types of uses including how the buildings are placed on the street and the creation of public spaces.

The company also has a goal to preserve and enhance existing buildings and businesses. Lonberger said he’d particularly like to see the community have pedestrian access to the Blackbird Academy of Arts.

With better connection to the academy through access on bike or foot, Lonberger said, more children could utilize the center’s after school activities.

"We don’t just want this to fix [Markham Street]," said Terry Kessinger principal at ICF International Electric Department. "This is part of an overall master plan."

Wes Craiglow, deputy director of development, said State Street in Madison, Wis. is a similar example to what the community can expect for Markham Street.

The next step in the Markham Street redevelopment will include a base market study followed by polling and opportunities for community feedback including workshops that will take place from December to March.

"Those workshops are intended to garner input from the public," Craiglow said.

Grummer said he’s looking to build a list of Markham Street community members who can provide feedback about the project. Grummer can be reached by email at scott.grummer@cityofconway.org and by phone at 501-450-6105 ext. 3724.

Grummer is currently looking into establishing lines of communication between the city and the public including a Facebook page and a blog, "so the community can plug in and provide input," he said.

With the base market study and public’s input, Lonberger said, Gateway Planing will have a cohesive analysis of the area, and begin their work on design concepts.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net.)

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