Smart Talk, March 18 

Real estate comparables

Argenta News, a North Little Rock-focused website, raised questions about Mayor Pat Hays' real estate savvy. It raised a good point. The mayor announced he'd struck a deal to sell 20 hilltop acres owned by the city, and the sprawling building that once housed Baptist Memorial Hospital, for $200,000. He said difficulties in demolition of the hospital, including asbestos, made this a good sale for the city. This sale comes on the heels of a city purchase downtown of the crumbling former Checkmate Club, a smallish two-story building on a half-acre that the city bought for $330,000. Bottom line: City sold land for $10,000 an acre and bought some for $660,000 an acre.

Cable complications

A Little Rock customer of Comcast called with a question about a coming change in service that will require him to get a set-top box, instead of directly plugging cable into his TV. He's suspicious about hidden costs.

Comcast spokesman Mike Wilson says it's part of an ongoing upgrade to all-digital service to allow the cable TV company to offer more HD channels and faster Internet service. Bottom line: If you already have a digital box (which you must have to receive premium and HD channels), nothing changes. But our friend who hasn't had a box will have to get a digital adapter, HBO or no HBO. Wilson said Comcast will supply up to three of those per home at no additional cost. More than three will incur a monthly fee. Wilson said more than 60 percent of customers already have the boxes. The changes will begin taking place at the end of April, beginning in neighborhoods in southern Pulaski County.

The house at Walgreens

Readers have asked what's up with the house that remained standing at the corner of South Cedar and Plateau after the whole block — including a rundown motel — was razed for the new Walgreens between Cedar and Pine on Markham. There's been a flurry of renovation there in the past month, with new windows, doors, pitched roof and an amoeba-like offshoot of the drug store blacktop going in behind it.

The house belongs to Springfield Holdings Group, LLC, the Little Rock company that is developing the Walgreens location. Jeff Nicholas, a partner in Springfield Holdings, said that the building is zoned for and will be leased as office space. He said it should be ready for occupancy in the next 45 to 60 days, and currently is available for lease. Asked why the house was spared when the rest of the block came down, Nicholas gives a simple answer: “We didn't need to tear it down.” It will share an offshoot of the Walgreens parking lot. The Walgreens itself is to open in May or June, a company spokesman said.



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