Clinton School of Public Service students are currently working on a pair of field service projects with the Downtown Little Rock Partnership with outcomes that could have lasting impacts on the city’s downtown business and entertainment community.
Working closely with Gabe Holmstrom, Executive Director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, a Practicum team composed of first-year students Claire Hollenbeck (Fort Smith, Ark.), Solomon Quarm (Kumasi, Ghana), and Gabriela Wells (Pascagoula, Miss.) are examining ways to revitalize Little Rock's downtown urban core.
The team’s research includes looking across the country at what other cities of similar size have done to transform their downtowns, and assessing how to make similar changes in Little Rock.
Hollenbeck, Quarm, and Wells are conducting interviews with local and national experts, issue surveys of how many downtown commercial buildings are blighted, and research ways to discourage blight in responsible and ethical ways to increase Little Rock's downtown population density.
“We are excited to partner with the Clinton School Practicum project this year to work with the students directly in an area that reflects their school: Downtown Little Rock,” said Holmstrom. “It is our hope we will be able to have a better understanding of the current state of downtown and identify potential opportunities at the conclusion of this study. I have no doubt the fresh eyes and looks at our urban core will generate new ideas and ways to look at our city moving forward.”
Gillian Gullett, a second-year student and native of Little Rock, is also partnering with the Downtown Little Rock Partnership on her Capstone project. Gullett’s work is focused on the city’s nearly 20,000 downtown parking spaces – many of which go unused every day.
“I have enjoyed working with Gillian on her Capstone project as it relates to parking in downtown Little Rock,” Holmstrom said. “As with many research projects, the deeper you dig, the more questions arise. I look forward to seeing the finished product of this deep dive and seeing what the possible outcomes can be.”
Underutilized surface lots separate businesses and corridors from each other, leaving downtowns less walkable and connected. Gullett is conducting research to determine how Little Rock could repurpose many of these parking dead zones to bring about growth and development in downtown Little Rock.
"Gillian is a rockstar student, and her project with DLRP is a perfect example of applied public service learning at its finest,” said Dr. Nichola Driver, Gullett’s advisor and the Faculty Director for the Office of Field Service. “She is taking the skills she learned in the classroom and putting them to use in the Clinton School's own backyard. Local projects, with great partners like Gabe Holmstrom, are the cornerstone of our field service experience. I have no doubt that her recommendations will ignite some excitement and get people talking."
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.