Making the Donaghey Building a home 


Investors hope the Donaghey Building at Seventh and Main will soon house more than just a handful of businesses.

Though progress has been slower than hoped, plans proceed to convert upper floors of the historic building into condos. Stephanie Smith of Smith Investments acquired the building earlier this year from a Hot Springs company and is in the process of ripping out nearly three quarters of the structure’s interior to turn the now vacant 5th through14th floors into 80 condo units that will cost from $150,000 to $200,000.

Smith said her new management com-pany wants to return much of the building to its original condition and, provided all goes smoothly, should complete the project in less than 3 years with pre-selling beginning as early as next summer. The construction process, she added, has been daunting, but has uncovered some architectural gems that date back to the building’s debut in 1926. Many of these features were altered or covered up — a mistake that Smith says will require some innovative restoration to correct.

“We’re looking for a picture of what the catwalk used to look like,” said Smith, referring to what has, until now, been covered by air conditioning units and dropped ceilings. “There is also some granite or marble on the walls that has been covered up that is absolutely beautiful. … It’s amazing what all has been done to it.”

And by “amazing,” she doesn‘t mean wonderful. Smith plans on restoring decorative features, such as the ornate crown molding along the tops of the walls and the building’s colorful stained glass, all in hopes of returning the Donaghey Building to its original glory.

“There are beautiful old mahogany doors that have been painted over and covered up … even the old mail slots on every floor — they’re still operational,” she said.

A condo conversion isn’t Smith’s only aim. She hopes to bring several more businesses into the first four floors. The building already houses 23 businesses, including a gym, jewelry store, restaurants, and Toys for Tots, operating this holiday season out of the 7th and 8th floors. But the commercial space is only about 25 percent occupied.

“We’ve still got a ways to go … and we‘re definitely looking for new businesses to add,” she said. “But, we’re also trying to make the space affordable for everyone … we’re surrounded by DHS [Department of Human Services], and we want to make sure that we’re as affordable as we can be.”

Smith and her crew were delayed for months in getting new construction underway. Financing of the construction is on hold, awaiting a city decision on the proposed sale of the Metrocentre Improvement District parking deck across Seventh Street to Smith for $2 million.

The parking deck was crucial to Smith to provide guaranteed, handy parking for new tenants. But resistance to the plan arose in the summer, when City Attorney Tom Carpenter said that the city had some $500,000 invested in the deck and the sale agreement provided no payment to the city, only to the improvement district. After several months of intense lobbying, the city Board of Directors was prepared to approve a sale, with some conditions on construction timelines.

The conditions created problems for Smith, but Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, which manages the parking deck for the Metrocentre Improvement District, worked out a solution. Priest, who had lobbied aggressively for the sale of the deck, agreed to lease 180 spots in the deck to Smith, sufficient to satisfy Smith’s lender that parking was covered. Priest has said the redevelopment was important to the goal of increasing the population of residents downtown.

Smith, too, hopes her project will serve as an anchor for the southern end of the Main Street commercial strip.

“We want people who work downtown to also be able to live downtown, affordably and comfortably,” said Smith. “We’re really trying to do something here to make the community better … while trying our best and being overly fair. … I think that they city will see that.”


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Food drive set in Little Rock for furloughed federal workers

    Is this sad, or what? Clinton National Airport has announced a two-day food drive for the benefit of unpaid workers at the airport.
    • Jan 20, 2019
  • Arkansas legislature prepares new attacks on Constitution, abortion

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Jeannie Roberts reported today on some of the plans for attacks on the U.S. Constitution and women's medical rights this legislative session. As ever, it's cookie-cutter stuff of dubious constitutionality as demonstrated by court rulings elsewhere
    • Jan 20, 2019
  • Trump's 'deal' on wall and dreamers is no bargain

    Donald Trump unveiled his great plan today — temporary protection for "dreamers" in return for  $5.7 billion worth of wall — but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already explained why it falls short and some on is side are already crying "no amnesty."
    • Jan 19, 2019
  • More »

More by Arkansas Times Staff

  • Friday's headlines and your holiday open line

    What happened at the State Board of Education and what does it mean; Legislation filed for Hutchinson's government reorganization plan; Pediatric flu-related death in Arkansas reported; Suspect arrested in unsolved 2008 North Little Rock homicide.
    • Dec 21, 2018
  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "Juice In Your Own Life"

    In this week’s episode, Charles and Antwan provide perspective and conversation on the Little Rock Mayoral Election and State Board of Education’s consideration of the anticipated request to waive the Fair Teacher Dismissal Act. In addition, Charles and Antwan discuss all things happening in the Little Rock School District with Superintendent Michael Poore.
    • Dec 11, 2018
  • End of the week headlines and your open line

    Alderman candidate misses chance to cast deciding vote for himself in runoff election; Dem-Gaz to phase out print delivery in El Dorado, Camden and Magnolia; Rapert threatens UA Fort Smith over 'Drag Queen Story Time' event; The Van seeks to raise $35,000 in three weeks for new warehouse facility in South Little Rock.
    • Dec 7, 2018
  • More »

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation