University of Arkansas Community Design Center - Framework Plan for Cherokee Village to amplify its nature, ecosystems, sense of place and heritage
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Framework Plan for Cherokee Village to amplify its nature, ecosystems, sense of place and heritage

University of Arkansas Community Design Center

Urban Planning  /  Future
University of Arkansas Community Design Center

The Plan directs growth in population, housing and tourism that amplify the Village's nature, ecosystems, sense of place, and heritage. Cherokee Village (pop 4,900) received a National Endowment for the Arts planning grant to combine its heritage as a midcentury modern forest community with future development. What do you do with a 1950s polycentric road network structured around highway arterials and cul-de-sacs exclusively for automobile travel and residential-only land uses? Countering the homogeneity of the modern layout, community stakeholders envisioned places with diversity in housing types and ownership models supported by new non-residential that support plural lifestyles. Each new brand of urbanism offers placemaking in alignment with demands for social-oriented places.

The Village’s 1950s lakes and arterial road network constituted a capital web for marketing vacant lots to homeowners. Yet, the lack of place types beyond the lakefront home and a few activity nodes subverts the Village’s economic and social development potential. The Plan reprograms this uniform cellular web through planning interventions that establish pattern languages of good town form.

The Framework Plan’s five urban pattern languages are:

  • Restoring the East Village Town Center: The Bowl and the Isthmus
  • A New West Village Town Center on the Lake
  • South Gateway Highway 412: Village on the Highway
  • Lake Omaha Housing Hill Neighborhood
  • Placemaking Scenarios in the Polycentric Web: New Street Typologies, New Neighborhoods

To re-energize its development potential, stagnated for decades, the Plan conceives development through multiple economic and social narratives: "A world where many worlds fit". Three principles guide the Plan:

It shall be adaptable to changing futures – neighborhoods should be walkable
It shall diversify lifestyle and hospitality environments – introduce mixed uses and density
It shall be resilient to market uncertainty – introduce a set of archetypal pattern languages

Cherokee Village received an Our Town planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The botanical garden received a 2022 Architects Newspaper Best of Design Award, while the cultural mapping project informing the plan, City in the Woods was a 2022 Plan Award Category Winner for Special Projects.

The Plan formulates a market-responsive planning vocabulary through the articulation of a set of archetypal places to an otherwise automobile-oriented suburban environment with very low housing density. Modulated place types – dense town centers, village clusters, village highway development, rural festival and recreation spaces, greenways, and communal neighborhood formats – address multiple market demand for inclusive living environments distinct from the single-family-lot-and-home around which Cherokee Village was designed. Each place type can be developed incrementally, simultaneously, or independently of the others as investor interest arises.

New neighborhoods may be built around existing assets like recreation centers, while monetizing fabulous hillside views of lakes through multifamily and vacation hillside housing. This is one of Arkansas’s most beautiful hill towns, yet no housing is built on the hills but rather only on the waterfront. The architecture continues the tradition of Ozarks regional modernism, most known through the architecture of E. Fay Jones, who worked in Cherokee Village as a young architect. The next generation of development in Cherokee Village can fulfill the vision of a “city in the woods” by fashioning discrete nodes of intensity without altering the overall environment that has attracted residents to the Village.

“Wow! Very impressive.” – Jonathan Rhodes, Community Developer and Client


 Cherokee Village
 Arkansas, USA
 City of Cherokee Village
 5.516675e+7 mq
  320,000,000.00 $
 University of Arkansas Community Design Center
 University of Arkansas Community Design Center


The University of Arkansas Community Design Center is an outreach center of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and one of a few university-based teaching offices in the United States dedicated to delivering urban design work. Originated in 1995, the center advances creative development in Arkansas through design, research, and education solutions. Nationally recognized in public-interest design, the center has its own downtown facilities and 5-6 professional design/planning staff, some who also teach. Beyond the focus on urban projects, UACDC has developed eight place-making platforms to shape civic design and public policy at state and municipal levels. These interdisciplinary platforms include 'missing middle housing,' 'agricultural urbanism,' 'transit-oriented development,' 'context-sensitive street design,' 'watershed urbanism,' 'big box urbanism,' 'smart growth,' and 'low impact development,' vocabularies which are locally articulated but hold universal currency.

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