How high the hotel? 

How high the hotel?

On Sept. 9, I attended the River Market Design Review Committee's meeting regarding the variance request for a proposed seven-story hotel on the corner of President Clinton Avenue and Commerce Street.

I own an art gallery in the River Market — one of the original and longest surviving retailers in the district. I have struggled through change and construction in the area, and I have also thrived and succeeded during its proudest moments. I have watched retailers all but cease to exist in the area, and I've watched vendors in the Market Hall itself continually dwindle — creating way too many vacancies for such a wonderful facility that used to flourish with small business owners who were proud of the part they played in the downtown market. For years I have advocated the need for more retail in the area, and the hotel promises to help fulfill this need by dedicating ground floor space to retail. What kind of retail isn't yet known, but the desperate need for more retail would come to fruition in some form.

Now our community is faced with a choice — to go against the original Overlay District guidelines for the area and the desire to keep it on a pedestrian scale and approve a hotel that will clearly eclipse all the buildings that surround it, or to stay the course and say no to such a development in order to preserve the integrity of the district. Even though I am a retailer, and, not only a retailer, but one who has begged for more businesses in the area, I support the latter of the two choices and oppose the building of the new hotel at its current height — three stories taller than is allowed by the River Market's Overlay District.

While I understand the hotel will bring much needed economic viability to downtown, I believe the highest calling of our River Market District leaders is to preserve the uniqueness it offers to the thousands of people who visit our city annually. I have often referred to the River Market as a snapshot most any tourist will see of our state. The impressions they gain from a few city blocks have the potential to set us apart from other cities all across the country. I fear we are at a tipping point that, if we head too far in one direction, the District will never be able to get back what it once had. Some say it's too late anyway; others still have hope that the River Market District will continue to help put Little Rock on the map as a thriving urban downtown entertainment and cultural district. I, for one, believe we can do this.

 When the variance request comes before the Board of Adjustment, I hope board members will look seriously not just at the approval or disapproval of this hotel in its current state, but also for the entire River Market District years down the line. If the buck doesn't stop here, where will it stop? When historic buildings are sold and torn down to make even taller buildings so we can look like every downtown in America? Or can we stop it now and come together as a community and pay attention to the immediate needs of the River Market, finding better ways to make it thrive, while also adhering to the guidelines of the Overlay District? The principals of Moses Tucker Real Estate and library director Bobby Roberts have all put enormous lifeblood into this area of our city that was neglected for years. I applaud all of them for their investments in  the community, and I would certainly defend them against their harshest critics in that regard. Whether the hotel is approved or disapproved, I look forward to future debates about the District that, if nothing else, prove that people really do care about the community and its citizens and are passionate about revitalizing downtown to its fullest potential.

Debra S. Wood, owner

River Market ArtSpace

Courageous nuns

When I read Jennifer Barnett Reed's article about the nuns at St. Scholastica Academy, I was touched. I lived in the area in 1951 and remember the racial climate in which their quiet deeds now seem so courageous. They were true to their spiritual calling which helped them make equality for all a reality. I wish I'd been that courageous.

Joanne O'Kelley

From the Internet

We already gamble

I have been listening with interest for several weeks to the words flowing back and forth regarding whether a lottery should be allowed or not in Arkansas. It seems the pro folks say basically it will raise money for education while the anti folks say it will open the door for casinos.

These latter people may be some of the same people who say that playing bingo will open the door for organized crime. I've even heard some allegedly educated people make that asinine statement. If these people think that casinos might suddenly appear, what do they think already exists in Hot Springs and West Memphis?

I doubt that the existence of a lottery would effect any change in “gambling” in Arkansas.

Allan Dishongh


Bob does it again

There are lots of reasons each week to read the Arkansas Times. Bob Lancaster's “Ya'll Come ...” column on Sept. 10, caused full-throated belly laughs. Thanks for the laughs. Thanks Arkansas Times.

Maylon T. Rice


Bob Lancaster's column is the first thing I turn to when I get the Arkansas Times. I enjoy his wit, insight and unique way with words.

One comment he made about needing to understand God's ways reminded me of the analogy of mankind and the red ant. How could the ant possibly understand our motives, plans or anything about us?

We, then, cannot possibly understand God. We don't even need to understand. What God requires of us is faith. Nothing else actually matters.

Bobby Oakley



Thank you for Bro. Bob's “hateful things” essay. I can remember back when every morning at breakfast during my teen-age years, my parents read a short devotional from some tiny magazine they ordered. Not one of those devotionals ever came close to being earth shattering. Most were merely boring. My parents meant well, but their religious experience was, to say the truth, somewhat limited.

Bob's essays come closer to inspirational than most. I'm thinking, though, that if he put out a tiny devotional magazine for the masses, he might not make a lot of moolah. Maybe later the human mind will accept some of the less palatable truths. 'Preciate his hacking away at some of them. Keep on preachin'.

Daniel Coston


Hillary's lesson

There is much to be learned from the likes of Harriet Tubman, whom Hillary Clinton alluded to in her speech at the Democratic Convention.

Tubman's goal had nothing to do with her sex; she had a higher purpose. She returned to possible enslavement each time with the probability of forfeiting her liberty for the sake of others.

When I hear of “Hillary supporters” voting for McCain, it disappoints me. As a Democratic, African-American female voter who has supported Democratic candidates, many times unqualified for their positions, others with hidden Republican agendas, I remained loyal.

Now, at the most crucial time in history, Barack Obama rises through the ranks legitimately and he is shunned because these “supporters” wanted Hillary? Will they really compromise the future of this country because of one woman?

I understand the glass ceiling. This presidential election is not just about women, it is about a way of life and change. Barack Obama is not the enemy. The enemy is the party that professes pro-life while practicing cultural and economic genocide on living and breathing children and families.

Deborah Springer-Suttlar

Little Rock



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