County mulls lease of site MAPCO wants for convenience store | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 26, 2014

County mulls lease of site MAPCO wants for convenience store

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:31 PM

click to enlarge COUNTY LINE: County leasing of former bank building (at left) would complement existing county building at right View from Third and Broadway looking north. - GOOGLE MAPS
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  • COUNTY LINE: County leasing of former bank building (at left) would complement existing county building at right View from Third and Broadway looking north.

Mike Hutchens, the Pulaski County comptroller, tells me there have been informal discussions in county government about leasing the vacant former bank branch property at Third and Broadway that has been proposed for a controversial MAPCO gas station and convenience store.

The MAPCO plan is on the Little Rock City Board agenda Tuesday. Voter counters tell me the Board is split and the tally will be close, though opposition is strong. Powerhouse real estate man Dickson Flake is pushing the deal. County officials, neighborhood groups and many others oppose the location because it will bring 24-hour convenience store troubles and more traffic to an already dangerous intersection in the heart of city and county government. It is just up the street two blocks from Robinson Center, about to undergo an expensive renovation.

The county is already leasing part of the property for parking spaces, at a rate of about $1,000 a month. That lease expires in a few months. The county has an option to renew, subject to other developments on the property. The property is owned by a Memphis man and his sister-in-law.

It would make perfect sense for the county to expand its lease into the former bank building for more office space and more parking on top of what it already leases there. The property is directly across Broadway from the county administration building.

If the Mapco deal doesn't work out, Hutchens said, "I think we could work something out."

Hutchens said he'd been told the bank that leased the building for a branch had paid $6,000 a month, more than the county likely would be able to pay. But he said the retiree owners who count on the income might be better served by a long-term steady lease with the county than a lump sum sale to Mapco with its tax consequences, and the difficulty of earning much a secure return on cash in today's low-interest financial market.

"Nothing has been formally discussed," Hutchens said. "But it's been thrown out there."

Let's throw it some more. A county office building at Third and Broadway is a great deal more inviting than relocating existing convenience store issues at Seventh and Broadway four blocks closer to city landmarks.

County records indicate the two parcels involved in the MAPCO deal are appraised at roughly $1.5 million. The county uses a former paint and body shop building behind the bank branch for the parking it leases.

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