Historic Preservation Review Board rejects application for historic status for Little Rock public-housing towers | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Historic Preservation Review Board rejects application for historic status for Little Rock public-housing towers

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 4:32 PM

click to enlarge towers.png

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Review Board this morning unanimously rejected an application to put three Little Rock public-housing towers on the National Registration of Historic Places.

The three high-rise public housing complexes — Fred W. Parris Towers at 1800 S. Broadway, Cumberland Towers at 311 E. Eighth Street, and Jesse Powell Towers at 1010 S. Wolfe Street — were nominated by a public-private partnership between the Metropolitan Housing Alliance (MHA) and Gorman & Company, Inc. The designation could have made the properties eligible for $11 million in federal or state tax credits.

The Downtown Little Rock Neighborhood Association submitted a letter opposing the designation for Powell and Cumberland Towers:

Giving historic status to Parris and Cumberland Towers would be going in the wrong direction, however, and DNA members oppose this action. Our Downtown Neighborhood Plan for the Future, approved by the Little Rock Board of Directors to guide our redevelopment, calls for an end to these over-large constructions incompatible with our historic structures. Our plan calls for keeping low-income residents in their homes, and shifting residents out of these high-rises, and into neighborhood homes, using vouchers. We have thousands of houses awaiting redevelopment.

We emphasize the need to provide a place for every apartment occupant. Sadly, programs to date have closed facilities, but failed to assure every displaced tenant gets a new place to live.

Parris and Cumberland Towers are at the end of their building lifespans; deferred maintenance justifying this redevelopment using tax credits for historic structures, and for affordable housing, will only apply a Band-Aid on a gaping, festering, sore.

All too soon, any work done as proposed here will wear out. No adequate funding appears likely in future. Our government consistently has not kept its promises to assure decent housing to all citizens. This would be a detour toward that goal; a stopgap to hold off final deterioration a bit longer. We appreciate this slick maneuver and use of existing programs, but we urge you to look ahead, and to stop this application today.

We urge housing officials to redirect their resources into neighborhood housing instead.
Here is the plan proposed by the MHA and Gorman partnership, which promises a $55 million comprehensive upgrade, modernizing 597 public housing units.

MHA can appeal to federal officials to attempt to get the historic designation.

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