Main Street demolition UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Main Street demolition UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 12:12 PM


LOOK NOW: The Kempner building may soon be gone.

You read in the Insider Jan. 9 (and the local newspaper caught up this week) that Warren Stephens was thinking of tearing down the buildings he owns on the 400 block of Main Street to build a new office building and parking. He'd like the state as a tenant, the Democrat-Gazette noted in its followup.

Monday, the demolition permits for 400, 406, 412 and 420 Main were issued to contractor East-Harding.

But not so fast. An e-mail sent out this morning by the director of the Historic Preservation Alliance urges its board to call city directors today and ask them to support a moratorium on demoloition on Main Street. “There has been little serious discussion about preserving the historic integrity and fabric of the streetscape” downtown, director Vanessa Norton writes in the e-mail. Preservationists say they've heard Mayor Mark Stodola might add the moratorium to the Board's agenda tonight, but we haven't been able to reach him for confirmation. Stodola throw his body in front of a Stephens Inc. bulldozer? That would be news.

Among the buildings that would be torn down: the 1916 Kempner Brothers Shoe Store, a neoclassical gem hiding behind a 1960s façade.

Word is that the Center Theater, on the east side of the block, may not be safe, either. Stephens once planned to renovate the theater, but work withered several years ago.

-- Leslie Newell Peacock

UPDATE: Comments from Mayor Stodola. (But don't get your hopes up. Unless Warren Stephens decides public opinion means anything, these buildings are rubble. Perhaps others on Main can be saved.)

The mayor says he doesn’t know if any members of the board are going to ask to put a moratorium on the agenda or not (meeting at 4).

He said he had expected to be notified before any demolition permits were taken out, but wasn’t. He gave David Knight, Stephens counsel, a call today trying to get some information, and he talked to Bobby East, the contractor, who said he’ll have to file an environmental abatement plan with ADEQ. Major flooding problems, lead paint.

The mayor said “not all redevelopment is bad.” But he thought “enlightened planning” is called for, since Main is the “Main Street of Arkansas and not just Main Street of Little Rock.” He wondered what Clinton Avenue would look like had there been enlightened planning way back when


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