The association is seeking to make the Little Rock directors and the city aware of the potential impact of the closing of these venues at 2:00am rather than at 5:00am as being proposed. In a time of city budget cutting, the limiting of the hours of operation will have a major impact on tax revenues being remitted to the city of Little Rock. It will of course impact money paid to the state of Arkansas as well. The current 5:00am clubs generate approximately 70% and often more of their business between 2:00am and 5:00am. Not only will the business and the revenues collected for the city be lost but also the businesses affected will be forced to layoff well over 60% to 75% of their employees. These people have children, car and house payments. If the ordinance is passed the businesses affected may be forced to evaluate continuing their operations altogether. While there is some talk of economic fairness in an across the board closing there seems to be little that is fair about firms being forced to layoff hard-working individuals who have families and potentially close their businesses. The late night businesses that are allowed to operate until 5:00am provide food, entertainment and adult beverages to many individuals who work the late and evening shifts at hospitals, hotels, restaurants and the service industries in and around Little Rock. Most major first class cities across the nation provide its citizens with some type of late night entertainment as well as food and drink. Our city has numerous concerts, a presidential library, and a demographically and socially diverse population that deserves the opportunity to seek a late night venue.
Update from David Koon, who was there for last night's meeting, on the jump...
Not long after UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson announced his idea for a location for the Little Rock Technology Park, two more ideas for a location surfaced — one envisioning development far beyond just a tech park.
* WAR MEMORIAL PARK: This much more expansive proposal turned up with agenda materials for the meeting tomorrow of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority. It includes local developers Greg Nabholz, Fletcher Hanson and Paul Esterer. It proposes using city and UAMS property and the $22 million earmarked for tech park construction, plus potential private investment, for a hotel, conference center, tech park, retail, Zoo administration building, a mass transit hub and more, including completion of the Coleman Creek Trail from UALR to War Memorial Park.
Here's the full proposal. It's ambitious, to put it mildly. In that it includes parking lots and other bits of War Memorial Park land, it will inspire lots of talk and almost certainly controversy. UAMS property also presents a challenge. The pitch went to the mayor, UALR, UAMS, the Zoo, War Memorial Stadium Commission and the Tech Park Authority.
The Midtown Civic Mixed Use Initiative would initiate a "comprehensive neighborhood preservation and investment strategy" and leverage potential resources, the proposal says. The idea is being pitched by Vialta Group, Newmark Grubbs Arkansas and Integral, said to have worked on redevelopment projects associated with the Atlanta Olympics.
"If this letter of interest makes sense, we look forward to initiating a process to discuss the alignment of the public interest in the vision discussed above and the private investment expectations to realize the vision," said the letter.
The letter is signed by Scott Polikov of the Vialta Group, based in Dallas, and Nabholz.
* DOWNTOWN: The Downtown Partnership has pitched a new idea, too, to use available downtown structures that qualify for historic rehabilitation tax credits. (See map on jump for properties the group has in mind.)
The Little Rock Downtown Partnership wants the Tech Park board to consider developing the park on Main Street. The partnership has asked to speak at the board's September meeting. Here's a letter on the subject.
Downtown Partnership Director Sharon Priest said today that, after hearing about the said tech park board's tour of St. Louis' Cortex facilities and the Wake Forest Innovation Center, both of which are in those cities' downtowns, "we thought why not downtown" here.
"22 million public dollars are not going to take care" of what is need to create the tech park, Priest said. You need to have private dollars to leverage the public dollars, and that potential start-ups could take advantage of tax credits associated with downtown properties.
Priest said she had not spoken to any developers "directly." Mayor Mark Stodola has been pushing the idea of a Main Street location for the Tech Park.
Parking has been cut back at the Big Dam Bridge, which draws huge crowds of families, walkers, runners and bicyclists on weekends, after a complaint by the Army Corps of Engineers workers at the Murray Lock and Dam that cars were making egress and ingress to the fenced-off federal property unsafe.
Visitors to the dam were able, until about a month ago, to park parallel on the south side of the span of Rebsamen Park Road from the main road to the Lock and Dam gate. The road used to accommodate about 24 vehicles, according to a Times estimate. The parking lot north and alongside the road can accommodate 39 cars, with four of the spots reserved for handicapped parking. A sign now tells visitors that overflow parking can be found in Murray Park, on Rebsamen road 6/10ths of a mile east of the entrance to the parking lot and connected to the lot by an asphalt path.
The back story, according to several agreeing sources, is that bicyclists believe employees of the Corps have been driving too fast down the 10 mph entrance to the lock and dam and Corps employees believe cyclists have been careless by congregating in the road. A Corps employee who was leaving work apparently honked at a cyclist to get out of the road and called police when the cyclist didn't move. (The Times has asked for a police incident report to confirm.)
The county erected the no parking signs; LRPD officers have written tickets to those who park. (The jurisdiction is complicated at the Big Dam Bridge, assistant City Manager Bryan Day explained: The Corps of Engineers owns the property and the county has a local use agreement with it. The city leases the land from the corps.)
Day said the city is trying to come up with a plan for more parking. Then the city will have to come up with the money.
Parks and Recreation assistant director Mark Webre noted that Murray Park has bathrooms, which he sees as a positive for folks who'll have to park there, and noted that they'll be walking when they get to the park as well. He acknowledged, however, that by reducing parking at the bridge, the city has potentially created a traffic jam on the narrow asphalt path that connects Murray Park and the bridge park, which will now be used by families pushing strollers, little kids, runners and hikers with bikers weaving in and among them.
Kathy Wells, president of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods, reports a Little Rock City Hall policy change to allow more time to preserve historic housing before it is torn down.
The city will put a hold of 180 days on demolition of structures deemed historic on the "unsafe and vacant" listing. Some 700 structures are on this list. The map above (fully viewable at this link) shows a portion of the city, with the U/V houses denoted by the blue markers.
Significant state and federal tax credits are available for rehab of qualifying structures in historic districts, such as the Central High neighborhood, if the work is done right. Realistically, the number saved by more time and more education about the tax credits will probably be small. But, once gone, they most surely aren't coming back.
What's more important is the need to maintain tax credit availability by keeping at least 50 percent of the structures in a designated historic district with historic status. A recent demolition of a former laundry on 7th Street for a MEMS expansion has put that historic district right on the line for qualification for tax credit status.
Kathy's memo follows:
The developers win again. Don't they always?
The Little Rock City Board of Directors sent a proposed sewer impact fee — $275 for hookup of a new ho,e — back to the Sanitary Sewer Committee to appoint a new study committee and to study the issue some more. It is supposed to report in six months, when — all understand — it will be defeated or postponed again.
Lots of discussion tonight, but the long and short is that Director Lance Hines, the usual interpleader for west Little Rock developers, thinks it's unfair. People in the old part of time should pay, too, even for sewage treatment plants that couldn't serve them by geography if they wanted to. $275 on new homes could grow to the $1,500 charged in booming suburban cities like Bryant, he said. And somebody else mentioned that other cities (progressive ones) assess development fees to anticipate the new demands on police, fire, parks, water, streets and other city services on account of new developments. Little Rock city fathers — ventriloquist dummies for developers — have always said growth pays for itself. It doesn't. And I had to really laugh when Mayor Mark Stodola said the city makes develpers build sidewalks.
Red herrings aplenty were thrown out. You'd think Director Joan Adocck was really looking after poor folks and the potential hookup fees on the essentially non-existent development in poor wards that could be affected by such a feee. Whatever her inent, she winds up carrying water for the usual ruling fathers who don't want impact fees. Director Kenneth Richardson, who voted present on the delay, was his usual lonely voice of reason about a city development policy that blights vast and growing parts of town while favoring the favored.
As Mayor Mark Stodola noted, we've been talking in Little Rock city government for 30 years about impact fees. They fail time and again while other more prosperous cities adopt them. They were defeated again tonight. That's all you know and all you need to know. The rest is noise.
PS — I wrote earlier that the board had planned tonight to waive bidding on so-called economic development services and then award $300,000 in unconstitutional taxpayer subsidies to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. The vote, meant to give a color of law to the baldly improper handouts, has been postponed for two weeks. Not to worry. The chamber — and its developer membership — will be served.
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