Pulaski County Brownfields, Our House Partnership

Region6_OurHouseChildCenter_After2.jpgThe Pulaski County Brownfields and Our House partnered to redevelop the grounds of former Little Rock Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital into a campus that would best serve the needs of the organization and the community.  Our House, Inc. provides Central Arkansas’ working homeless with housing, training and youth programs to help them succeed.  A programming evaluation revealed the need for a new facility to address a variety of programs and space requirements, as well as the unique developmental needs of homeless and near-homeless children. This evaluation led to the creation and construction of the Our House Children’s Center. The Our House Children’s Center is a learning facility that offers important educational and enrichment opportunities that at-risk children often miss. This brownfield redevelopment project is a modern, flexible facility that demonstrates a commitment to ending the cycle of homelessness by providing a learning space for all of the community’s children to grow and thrive.

The Our House site was idle for 31 years (1982 – 2013). The site was located on the southeast corner of  the former Veteran Administration (VA) Hospital grounds in Little Rock.  The VA Hospital operated from 1949 – 1982. The remediation of the Our House site was completed in approximately four and half months – March 14, 2013 – July 25, 2013.  The total acreage of the Our House site is 1.42 acres with an approximate remediation footprint of 1 acre.  The remediation area included an approximately 8,850 square feet single-story structure. The structure consisted of the former hospital boiler plant and adjacent facility maintenance shops, as well as the removal of three underground storage tanks. Once the remediation work was complete, construction of the new Children’s Center took 12 months to complete. Construction began in June 2013 and concluded in June 2014.  The total time frame from remediation to redevelopment of the Our House site was one year and three months.

Our House site before redevelopment.

Our House site before redevelopment.

When the hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead-based paint were properly removed, the demolition of the site structures was completed and soil was graded to drain.  Once the remediation was completed, the construction contractor began preparing the entire site for final grade and located three underground storage tanks (UST) in the northwest corner of the property.  Two 29,660 gallon USTs and one 13,746 gallon UST were removed, as was 576 tons of contaminated soil and 60,655 gallons of diesel fuel.  Clean backfill was used. The site graded to drain; erosion and storm water control put in place.  Cleanup funding was 100% provided by the EPA Pulaski County Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Sub grant.  Our House was required to contribute a 20% cost-share match.

Because of the Our House Children’s Center, homeless and near-homeless children in central Arkansas are able to receive high-quality care and support, in a world-class facility, to help them grow, learn, and reach their full potential. The Children’s Center operates two programs: Little Learners, for 60 children age 0-5 each day, and Our Club, for 90 children age 6-17 each day. Both programs are licensed and quality-rated by the state child care licensing agency. Little Learners is a curriculum-based early childhood education center that provides all-day care, with the goal of helping children reach their developmental milestones and prepare for success in school.

The Our House Children’s Center impact on economic development is not demonstrated through an increase in taxes or new commercial space, but through the providing a pathway out of homelessness for families. This pathway includes free childcare for parents so they may concentrate on finding employment, or for working parents that cannot afford childcare. By providing this service, the parents are able to re-establish their families in the community.

Cozetta Jones
Communications Director
cjones@pulaskicounty.net

501-340-8523

Pulaski PACE

In 2013, Arkansas passed legislation authorizing local governments to create PACE districts. The Pulaski County Energy Improvement District was created in 2015 by the Pulaski County Quorum Court to help create jobs, retain wealth and grow Pulaski County’s economy by enabling Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing. Our program, Pulaski PACE, provides commercial property owners the opportunity to realize energy and cost savings through facilities improvements and receive up to 100 percent financing, repaid as a property tax assessment for up to 20 years.  The assessment mechanism has been used for decades nationwide to access low-cost and long-term capital to finance improvements that meet a public purpose.

Pulaski PACE is a valuable tool used to overcome the challenges of implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in commercial, industrial and multifamily residential buildings and agricultural applications located in Pulaski County. Pulaski PACE can finance energy efficiency improvements such as insulation, windows, lighting, HVAC or roofs, water conservation improvements such as low flow fixtures and agricultural irrigation improvements and technologies that produce energy such as solar, wind and geothermal.

The three primary objectives of the Pulaski PACE program are:

  1. foster green jobs and boost local employment opportunities;
  2. reduce energy cost and promote utility savings for property owners; and
  3. encourage energy efficiency in buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Pulaski PACE is administered by two third-party companies, Property Assessed Clean Energy Arkansas (PACEAR) and Arkansas Advanced Energy Equity, LLL (A2E2), that developed and administer programs for the marketing, financing and administration of projects in renewable energy generation, energy generation, energy efficiency improvement, weatherization and water conservation projects utilizing PACE financing in Pulaski County.

For more information contact either Pulaski PACE Administrator or the Pulaski County Attorney’s Office.

 

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Two Rivers Park

2rivers_bPulaski County and the City of Little Rock jointly own 2 Rivers Park, a 1000 acre tract at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Maumelle Rivers. The County and City in 1992 prepared a 2 Rivers Park Master Plan, which sets principles for recreational uses compatible with keeping the park in a natural area, including walking, bicycling, horse back riding and family activities.

The City-owned area includes approximately 450 acres of mostly wooded wetlands area, and the County-owned area includes approximately 550 acres of open fields. Both the city and county have developed trail systems within their areas. In addition, the County-owned area includes the Garden Center at which county residents can rent garden tracts. About 300 residents take advantage of the gardening opportunities.

In 2004 Pulaski County Judge F. G. “Buddy” Villines convened meetings with several community organizations including the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Audubon Society, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Cooperative Extension Service, Master Gardener Program, City of Little Rock, and private citizens and discussed approaches for using tree planting to enhance the use and appeal of 2 Rivers Park. Later that year, Pulaski County retained the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) to plan and design a Garden of Trees to be developed within a 140 acre portion of the county-owned area. The UACDC collaborated with the Arkansas Forestry Commission to plan and design the Garden of Trees.

Junction Bridge

JunctionBridge_bConstructed originally in 1884 by the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad, and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad, the Junction Bridge carried trains across the Arkansas River until 1984 when its active railroad use ended.

The Junction Bridge Project will adapt the Junction Railroad Bridge for pedestrian and bicycle use, linking both sides of the Arkansas River. As an integral part of the Six Bridges Plan and riverfront development in both cities, it will parallel the Rock Island Railroad Bridge being developed as a pedestrian way by the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library Foundation.

Ownership of the Junction Bridge transferred to the City of Little Rock as a part of its transaction with the Union Pacific Railroad to acquire railroad right of way in the River Market area. In 2001, the Cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County requested grant funds from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department / Federal Department of Transportation to adapt the Junction Railroad Bridge from railroad use to pedestrian and bicycle use.

In 2002, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department approved grant funds to the three governmental entities totaling approximately $1 million for use in constructing improvements to the bridge. The Cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County have committed an additional $200,000. McClelland Engineering conducted the engineering studies required for the AHTD application and funding. The engineering assignment included a structural analysis and an underwater inspection of the bridge. The AHTD grant also became the stimulus for an extensive planning process involving citizens from both sides of the Arkansas River.

Awards!

  • The Junction Bridge Pedestrian Conversion Project was awarded the 08 Best Transportation Project
  • The Junction Bridge Pedestrian Conversion Project was awarded the 08 Merit for Public Design

Big Dam Bridge

Big Dam BridgeAt 4226 feet the Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in the world! Visitors can enjoy the concrete deck and eight observations areas while taking in the breathtaking view of the Arkansas River and surrounding countryside.

It took eight years from conception to completion to build “The Big Dam Bridge”. There have been many who wondered about that name. How did it get that name? Was it just a marketing ploy or a statement of the obvious, a big bridge on a dam. It was a little of both and more. The first two or three years were tough, pulling together several federal, state and local agencies. There was some resistance. The design was complex. The costs were great. There came a time when everyone involved was ready to quit.

I walked into one of those meetings where the frustrations were running high with the tone and attitude of giving up. My response was simple, “we are going to build that dam bridge”. There was a pause and then laughter as people realized that I said “dam” instead of “damn”. But it served its purpose. That became an expression of resolve as we moved forward.

When we were preparing for the opening, I took the planning group, Denver Peacock and Jordan Johnson, up on the bridge. I think the comment was, “wow, this is big”. To which I responded, “yes, it’s a big dam bridge”. They recognized the marketing value for the opening and beyond.

Thus, we have “THE BIG DAM BRIDGE.”