Arkansas

The Little Rock Tourism Master Plan includes redevelopment of the Statehouse Convention Center and redevelopment of the River Market.

 

Among the recommendations in the 10-year tourism master plan, which the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau will unveil at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, are exploring possible renovations to the Statehouse Convention Center and reinventing Ottenheimer Market Hall at the River Market.

According to a copy of the report, officials began developing a master plan in late 2021.

The Visitor’s Office hired Jones Lang LaSalle to produce the report.

“An analysis of the three years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic showed that from 2017 to 2019, the use of [Statehouse Convention Center] was about 45% overall,” the master plan says. “Over the next five years, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau aims to increase usage by 15%.”

In addition to changes to booking practices, the plan recommends that officials conduct a study to expand and renovate the convention center.

“Currently, the building is located “back side” to the river, which is not the highest and best use of the river facade,” the report says.

As for the Ottenheimer Market Hall, the plan recommends that the visitor’s office “explore alternative operating models, including partnering with local brands as well as regional and national entrepreneurs to reimagine and reactivate the space.”

The hall currently has several food vendors operating from different stalls. Its opening hours do not extend into the evening.

Although the authors of the plan note that the issue of crime and safety came up almost every time in stakeholder interviews and focus groups, they concluded that “perception issues seem to be more common than actual crime and safety issues for visitors.”

“Despite the need to address real crime and safety issues, the persistence of negative headlines only exacerbates perception problems,” the report says. “Stakeholders were adamant that Little Rock had too much to offer to be belied by crime statistics that don’t seep into tourist areas.”

In conjunction with the 10-year master plan, the Visitors Bureau staff also prepared a business plan for 2023 to guide the first year of the master plan.

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