New Projects, Players Attracted To Downtown Little Rock Redevelopment

by George Waldon  on Monday, Nov. 22, 2010 12:00 am  

Greg Hatcher and Sam Alley joined forces to take out the KARK Building.

A wave of redevelopment in downtown Little Rock that began last year is pushing activity south across Third Street. A project sampling represents a mix of historic renovations, remodeling and teardowns put in motion by new players and familiar faces.

Scott Reed turned his attention from rehabing houses in the Central High neighborhood to renovating the Gus Blass Dry Goods Warehouse at 315 Main St.

Workers are busy at the building where Porters, a jazz-themed restaurant, is expected to open next year, followed by 30 apartments.

"We have 24 people on the wait list, and we only have 30 units," Reed said. "This is people standing out in front of the building giving us their name and contact information. These people work downtown."

The restaurant will occupy most of the basement and ground floor, with two apartments on the ground floor and 28 more on floors 2-5. Reed describes the 42,000-SF project as a LEED-certified, historic renovation.

"It will be a pretty unique building," Reed said. "That's not a combo you see very often."

Brad and Shelley Barnett are still in the planning phase to redevelop the YMCA Building at 524 Broadway. Workers have removed "10 tons" of material since the couple bought the property for $150,000 three months ago, according to Brad Barnett.

"If someone hadn't seen what it looked like before, they wouldn't realize that it's come a long way," he said. "We're looking forward to next year and pushing forward.

"We've talked with a dozen different people interested in coming to the building, including shops and restaurants. Is anyone definite? No."

Three properties and $2 million later, Greg Hatcher has called a timeout to further downtown redevelopment action.

"That's it for now," Hatcher said. "My cup runneth over."

He embarked on a small buying spree of downtown Little Rock that started with a new location for his insurance firm, The Hatcher Agency. The $675,000 purchase of the 308-310 Louisiana St. building in August 2009 led him to acquire two nearby properties.

"For me, what I was looking for was parking," Hatcher said. "Sometimes you just have to do things on a leap of faith. I knew the building we bought was a great buy and had great potential, and I tried to work out the parking five or six ways. But I just couldn't get it worked out."



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