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Once a prosperous cultural urban center in the Mississippi River delta, but now the nation’s second fastest shrinking city, Pine Bluff (population: 42,700) is Arkansas’ Detroit. Indeed, a study of black wealth conducted by famed sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois in 1899 found that Pine Bluff had the fourth highest rate of black wealth in the nation behind Charleston, Richmond, and New York City. The school’s community design center prepared a downtown revitalization plan, Re-Live Downtown Pine Bluff, a housing-first initiative focused on building neighborhoods around downtown “centers of strength”. While the revitalization approach is triaged around a combined Framework Plan, Housing Plan, Street Plan, and a Special Projects Plan, students worked with the design center on the Housing Plan.
Re-Live Downtown Pine Bluff is a housing-first downtown revitalization plan for America’s second-fastest shrinking city. Once one of Arkansas’ legacy downtowns serving the Lower Mississippi Delta, Pine Bluff supported considerable wealth creation as a manufacturing, railroading, agricultural processing, and cultural center. In 1899, the famous sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, W. E. B. Du Bois conducted a survey on black wealth in America. Du Bois found that Pine Bluff had the fourth highest rate of back wealth nationwide behind Charleston, SC, Richmond, VA, and New York City. Today, however, Pine Bluff’s population has fallen from its peak of 57,400 residents in 1970 to an estimated low of 42,984 in 2017, yet the region is growing. Close to 31 percent of Pine Bluff’s population lives below poverty level, and its 2016 median household income was $36,538, the fourth lowest of all metro areas. More than 76 percent of residents are African American. The Plan aims to restore an affordable downtown residential option within the region for which there is consumer demand and available investment capital.
Since the City unwittingly made many planning mistakes over the last 40 years (including widespread demolition of historic structures), our nonprofit client requested a didactic regeneration plan akin to a manual for educating residents on urbanism. Thus, a Revitalization Assembly Kit consisting of four layers—a consolidated Framework Plan nesting a Housing Plan, a Street Plan, and a Signature Projects Plan—outlines a pattern book logic to infill the 30-block core demarcated for this pioneer phase of revitalization. This urban pattern language is transferable to other communities.
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
urban planning, missing middle housing, revitalization, context sensitive development, urban design, masterplan
Environmental Design | Landscape Architecture | Other Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies | Urban Studies and Planning
Community Design Center, "Re-Live Downtown Pine Bluff" (2018). Project Reports. 1.