Metroplan has issued its semi-annual trends report on the Little Rock metropolitan area and emphasizes the positive — a 5.5 percent population growth in the five-county area since 2010, which is exactly the U.S. average for areas with populations between 500,000 and 1 million. But the figures show decidedly slower growth for the urban core cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. The report also writes about efforts to encourage denser development in suburbs.

This edition of the Metrotrends Demographic Review and Outlook takes a look at prospects for redevelopment of older districts in the Central Arkansas region. This is important, because renewing a city from within takes advantage of streets, water mains, sewers and other expensive infrastructure that’s already in place. That saves on costs. For many residents, older and more walkable areas are also more livable. 

Bryant, the report notes, has developed some plans for encouraging renewal in the heart of the city.


The report emphasizes not only the walkability of denser development, but the tax benefits of a multi-story office building against a Walmart shopping center.

As Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3 demonstrated in a talk at Metroplan in August, 2017, a refurbished downtown office building yields 97 times as much property tax revenue per acre as a Wal-Mart in Asheville, North Carolina. The WalMart sit on 34 acres of land (mostly parking lot), while the office building utilizes 0.2 acres. The downtown building has been around for over a century, and can last at least another.

The typical suburban store is built to last about 15 years. Suburban growth also involves infrastructure costs that are well-concealed at the front end, but become a drag 40 years on, as pavement cracks and pipes wear out. This matters because tax revenues pay for our city governments and all the things they do. Cities and counties must recognize who really pays their bills, and who develops land cheaply, assisted by public debt. They must also ask what kind of developments they want as their legacy fifty years hence. 

This is music to my ears, but long-rejected as ear-splitting noise by Little Rock city leaders. Even today, they think it’s good for Little Rock to allow more downtown destruction by a wider concrete ditch through town to save a few seconds on the commutes of people heading home to Bryant, Conway and Cabot. (The Metroplan report doesn’t address traffic flow.)


The report warns, too, of a potential retail shakeout in west Little Rock and suburban shopping centers because of the impact of the Internet. A “day of reckoning” lies ahead, the report warns.