New lecture series to focus on planning in Central Arkansas

Metroplan aims for series of talks

The inauguration of a new lecture series devoted to community planning comes at an important juncture for central Arkansas, said Tab Townsell, the top official at Metroplan.

The long-range transportation planning agency for the region is underwriting the first in the Better Communities Lecture series.

"The series is being established to bring in speakers from around the country who are experts in a wide variety of 'best practices' for creating and strengthening resilient and vibrant communities," Metroplan said. "Attendees will have the opportunity to hear unique and challenging perspectives and practices that may be appropriate in central Arkansas."

Joe Minicozzi, a principal in the consulting firm Urban3 of Asheville, N.C., and a well-regarded speaker on city planning issues, will speak at 6:30 p.m. Monday and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Jeffrey Hawkins Conference Room of the Pulaski County Regional Building at 501 W. Markham St.

Minicozzi's firm uses land values and property and sales tax analysis to shape community design.

Its numbers show cities that redevelop their downtowns reduce infrastructure costs and ongoing expenses while at the same time increasing their revenue because redeveloped downtown property can be more valuable than suburban development and, as a result, yields more property tax revenue, at least on a per-acre basis

"Some development that is seen as beneficial may not be as beneficial as it appears," said Casey Covington, deputy director for Metroplan.

Minicozzi's appearance comes as the region debates 30 Crossing and its impact on the region, particularly downtown Little Rock.

The $631.7 million Interstate 30 corridor project through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock will replace the bridge over the Arkansas River, improve the interchanges and widen the corridor to eight or 10 lanes, depending on the outcome of an environmental review that requires federal approval.

"We think it's important at this juncture as a region to help push planning concepts onto our region and to get them percolating through the region, particularly on the heels of the 30 Crossing decision," Townsell said.

Already more than 100 people are registered to attend the lectures. They are free and open to the public, but Metroplan requests that attendees reserve a spot by calling (501) 372-3300 or emailing csegebarth@metroplan.org.

Patricia Blick, executive director of the Quapaw Quarter Association, is among those looking forward to hearing Minicozzi.

"What I like about him is that he uses quantifiable data to support the revitalization and investment in traditional downtowns," she said. "He compiles it in a very understandable way and graphically depicts it to help you understand the value of your property."

Townsell said he hopes the first lecture in the series won't be the last. Metroplan is footing the bill for Minicozzi's appearance, but Townsell said the agency will need partners to help continue the series.

Metro on 08/13/2017

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