Streets and Streams as Walkscape and Artscape

Streets and streams have always formed a magical combination in the development of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The City of Hot Springs is combining Complete Streets planning with a larger watershed development approach in its downtown Thermal Basin District. The Malvern Avenue Plan will constitute the first phase of a larger Low Impact Development Hot Springs Creek watershed project to alleviate downtown flooding. Street retrofits that increase walkability and bikeability are planned in tandem with improvements to the Hot Springs Creek riparian corridor—a self-styled “Complete Streams” approach. Street retrofits triangulate pedestrian connectivity among Malvern’s three primary geographies: the Gateway Neighborhood, the convention center area, and the train depot transit center as they connect to downtown.

The Malvern Avenue Corridor and District Plan is also a cultural project beyond Complete Streets planning, celebrating the history of this southern gateway to downtown and Arkansas’ premier convention center. Malvern Avenue was once a lively African-American neighborhood with a business and entertainment district equal in vitality to Central Avenue’s famed Bathhouse Row. Among the new spaces planned for Malvern Avenue, an Outdoor Museum memorializes famous “Chitlin’ Circuit” blues and jazz performers like Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald who played on Malvern during the era of racial segregation. The new Malvern Avenue introduces a walkscape and artscape complementary to the legendary urbanism of Central Avenue—recently voted one of the “Ten Great Streets” in America by the American Planning Association. The Plan therefore sponsors an innovative vocabulary of street cross-sections articulated as eight outdoor rooms—restaurant row patio, outdoor museum, boulevard circle, promenade, depot water garden, hotel plaza, riparian loop, and gateway. These street cross-sections recode the Malvern Corridor and District to solve for combined urban-ecology challenges in water management, mobility, and aesthetics.


City of Hot Springs

AuthorLinda Komlos