North Little Rock has been named a “Trendsetter City” in the category of Tourism Development/Creative Culture by Arkansas Business for its work developing and managing Argenta Plaza in downtown North Little Rock.
The City of North Little Rock and the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (North Little Rock CVB) envisioned a community space in North Little Rock’s downtown that could be used for events as well as be open for the public to enjoy. Prior to the construction of Argenta Plaza, the 34,320 square-foot space was a large gravel parking lot that was underused for parking and used for small events but with limited capabilities. With North Little Rock’s growing arts and culinary scene downtown, the city needed an outdoor gathering place to serve as a cornerstone for not just visitors and residents, but also to attract new economic development. The goals of the Argenta Plaza project were to:
- support the local economy,
- foster a sense of community, and
- attract economic development.
When people host events at Argenta Plaza in North Little Rock, they are supporting the local economy through costs associated with the event (space rental, vendors, caterers, etc.) and also generate revenue for nearby restaurants, hotels, and other local businesses. Even before it broke ground, Argenta Plaza was an economic driver with more than $40 million in pledged or recent development surrounding the site.
The development of Argenta Plaza was one piece in a master plan to improve the city of North Little Rock’s downtown area to attract new development, improve quality of life and provide unique arts and cultural experiences for the local community as well as visitors.
The City of North Little Rock worked with Taggart Architects in North Little Rock and Dlandstudio out of Brooklyn, New York, to design the space with an estimated budget of $4 million. Strategic green spaces, state-of-the-art audio and visual capabilities and water features were essential to the design. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in August 2018 in tandem with the groundbreaking of First Orion Corp.’s 60,000 square-foot global headquarters, which now lines the east side of the plaza. Ground broke in March 2019 on the four-story “600 Main” building north of Argenta Plaza. The North Little Rock CVB created a strategic plan for Argenta Plaza in 2019 that included plans for signature events and festivals as well as free, public programming for the local community.
The City of North Little Rock oversaw the construction of Argenta Plaza, which was completed in early 2020 with a final budget of $5.36 million. A preliminary grand opening took place Saturday, November 30, 2019, as part of North Little Rock’s annual Northern Lights Festival. The event attracted 10,000 residents and visitors and was successful in bringing business to downtown restaurants; bringing the community together and showing North Little Rock as a vibrant place to live and work.
Upon its completion, the North Little Rock CVB assumed responsibility for managing and marketing the space for public and private events. Argenta Plaza and its programming complements other efforts by the City of North Little Rock and North Little Rock CVB to support a strong downtown, including the setting up of an entertainment district in 2020 for Argenta allowing restaurant patrons to consume and carry alcohol within district boundaries, particularly to assist restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early 2021, the North Little Rock CVB partnered with Ballet Arkansas on a unique educational and performance program called Live at the Plaza, which provided two weekends of free fitness classes and outdoor performances to the public. The City of North Little Rock and the city’s employee health and wellness program, Fit2Live, were sponsors of the event. The program, which used many of Argenta Plaza’s water and A/V features, attracted a diverse audience of 1,530 and 105 class participants over the two weekends.
Regular programming was part of the strategic plan and included a Saturday morning farmers market and live music series. Saturdays, Argenta Farmers Market provides locals and visitors the opportunity to shop local produce and Arkansas products. Other events held in Argenta Plaza so far have included a free monthly music series features Arkansas musicians; award and graduation ceremonies; performances by the local community theater, fundraising events and countless photo shoots giving the City of North Little Rock great exposure.
Argenta Plaza has been a catalyst for more than $50 million in economic development in North Little Rock’s downtown, including First Orion Corp. with 200 employees and a four-story office building housing the North Little Rock CVB, North Little Rock Welcome Center, Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association and Taggart Architects. The plaza has served as an example of how a city and community can work together to achieve greatness: the City of North Little Rock and the North Little Rock CVB’s collaborative efforts have made the venue successful in bringing the community together and attracting new economic development. North Little Rock CVB coordinates the plaza programming by closely communicating with Argenta Downtown Council, the downtown organization, as well as the City of North Little Rock. Since opening, Argenta Plaza has garnered positive media exposure for the city:
- TOTAL: 690 media hits, 102,910,680 impressions, $951,928 advertising value equivalency (AVE)