University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Waterfronts have played an important role in the settlement of North America. Not only did waterfronts provide protection and security to newly forming settlements, but these waterways also provided the opportunity for trade while acting as a major hub of activity and social interaction. Ironically, the waterfront that was the genesis of the city was often neglected after the introduction of the steamboat and the railroad as well as industrial advancements. Polluted and neglected, riverfronts of the cities were in disrepair. Not until the past few decades have larger cities revisited their waterfronts and realized the amenity that lies at the edge. Van Buren, Arkansas, though not a big city, struggles with the same abandonment of its industrial foundation. The Arkansas River with its origin in Leadville, Colorado, has created a riverfront for the city of Van Buren as well as a historic Main Street. As in many other places, the city has turned its back on the potential of Van Buren's riverfront. The industrial facets of a poultry plant, railroad lines, and a ten-foot high levee wall segregate the city from the riverfront. The metamorphosis of the Van Buren Riverfront involves creating a mixed-use riverfront development that not only provides opportunities for growth but also serves as an icon for the city. By acknowledging the existing site conditions and respecting the industrial character therein, VanBuren can reclaim the riverfront area as a vibrant edge.