Mayor Mark Stodola Looks to Keep Main Street Makeover Moving

Mayor Mark Stodola Looks to Keep Main Street Makeover Moving
Mark Stodola, the mayor of Little Rock, stands along Main Street between Capitol Avenue and 6th Street. (Karen E. Segrave)

Less than a week from Monday’s grand opening of the Creative Corridor in downtown Little Rock, Mayor Mark Stodola was already savoring the moment.

By his reckoning, more than $100 million worth of redevelopment is taking shape along a four-block stretch of Main Street. (See Mark Stodola's Main Street Math.)

A mix of retail and office buildings that decades ago were part of the city’s historic commercial core have combined with new construction to recast a string of properties. A foundation of restaurants, apartments and the performing arts will be joined by a high-rise hotel redevelopment and the Little Rock Tech Park.

Completed projects, works in progress and near-future developments dot Main Street where stagnation and dilapidation were all too common.

“This is a vision I had when I was first running for mayor,” said Stodola, who has held the office since 2007.

“The real estate values have just skyrocketed in that area. It’s a collision of arts and culture, now with technology and science. The young, creative class wants to be there.”

The city of Little Rock and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership are celebrating the development progress along Main Street that is helping build the Creative Corridor. The Sept. 14 festivities are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. with a gathering at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre at 601 Main St. followed by a tour of some properties.

It took Stodola three years to convince leaders with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Ballet Arkansas and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to buy into becoming part of the redevelopment picture.

The performing arts triple bill provides ground-floor zing to the Main Street Lofts along the west side of the 500 block.

However, the ambitious three-building redevelopment has overwhelmed the management and funding capabilities of the ownership group led by Scott Reed and Wooten Epes.

The Rep moved into its new space in June. But completion of the office and rehearsal-performing space for the ballet and symphony is crawling toward a finish going on two years beyond its promised delivery.

Installation of the vinyl dance floor and 12-foot floor mirrors are the big items remaining for the Ballet Arkansas studio space. Construction of its office space remains in a conceptual state for the developers.

The studio and office space was supposed to be ready for move-in by October 2013.

The project’s exasperated contractor, AMR Construction, walked off the job in April and filed a $1.2 million lien claim for unpaid work.

“Scott Reed and his partners are in a dispute with the contractor,” Stodola said of the latest slowdown in the Main Street Lofts and K Lofts projects. “It’s happening, but just not as fast as I’d like for it to happen.”

Stodola is philosophical about the tardy progress and financial drama of Reed’s projects in the greater scheme of Main Street doings. Even a tangible, slow-arriving redevelopment is better than big empty buildings backed by drawing-board dreams in search of reality.

“Plans are good, but if you can’t build them, they’re not worth much,” Stodola said.

Scott Reed’s track record for starting projects on Main Street is good. Keeping a timetable and completing the job, not so much, unlike other developers in the Creative Corridor.

Five years after first starting his K Lofts project at 315 Main St., the historic property remains unfinished. Reed’s in-volvement in downtown Little Rock redevelopment began with a door opened and a deal brokered by Stodola.

“If I can get it to you nominally, are you interested in developing it?” Stodola remembers asking Reed in 2010.

With a nominal purchase of 315 Main St., Reed was in the historic redevelopment business in downtown Little Rock. His plans for the property were developed with even less upfront cash, according to Tommy Jameson, architect on the K Lofts project.

“He didn’t have the money to pay me,” Jameson said. “It’s the first and only time I’ve taken a promissory note as payment on plans. I ended up being paid but not on time. That was a foreshadowing of everything else he’s done in town.”

Reed has told Stodola and others there is a waiting line of would-be tenants for the K Lofts project. That’s what he told Arkansas Business four years ago.

Despite such apparent demand representing a ready-to-tap revenue stream, the mostly finished project sits dormant.

At last report, the computerized metering system for its 32 apartments isn’t set up, and washers, dryers, refrigerators and microwaves and stoves are absent. AMR Contractors has a $175,900 lien claim for unpaid work on the property.

“We’re just waiting for our day in court, so to speak,” said Manly Roberts, president of AMR Construction.

The company has filed for an arbitration hearing, as required under the terms of its contract, but a date has not been set.

Roberts said his contracts with Reed provide for allowances, additional payment for additional time and material needed to complete a job when construction is begun without final drawings.

“We’re going to prove by the contract that we’re owed this money, and we’ll sort it out in arbitration,” Roberts said. “I’m a contractor. I wanted to finish renovating the buildings.”

Mark Stodola’s Main Street Math

300 Block

300 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redevelopment of the 21,000-SF Fulk Building into the new home of CJRW, $4.2 million
Status: Complete

301 Main St.

(Mark Carter)

The new 28,000-SF M-3 Productions Building, $5.6 million
Status: Complete

308 Main St.

(Tre Baker)

The 7,000-SF Dundee Building renovation to house Soul Fish Café and Bruno’s delicatessen, $2 million
Status: In motion

310 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redeveloped into Bruno’s Little Italy on the ground floor and the 19-unit Mann Lofts above
Status: Complete

315 Main St.

(Karen E. Segrave)

Redeveloped into the 32-unit KLofts apartment
Status: The long off-schedule project, five years in the making and counting, is nearly complete but in limbo in a $175,900 contract dispute between AMR Construction and Scott Reed.

324 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redeveloped 90,000-SF Blass Department Store into Mann on Main for state offices on the upper floors, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill on the ground floor and adjoining 400-space parking deck, $20 million
Status: Complete

400 Block

Future campus of the Little Rock Tech Park will be developed along both sides of Main Street. The project will encompass four buildings: the 24,000-SF KATV Building at 401 Main, the 10,000-SF Mays Byrd & Associates Building at 415 Main, the 28,000-SF Exchange Bank Annex at 417 Main and the Exchange Bank Building at 421 Main, $22 million-plus.

(Artist rendering)

(Sierra Wheeler)

(Sierra Wheeler)

Status: Property acquisition to begin in 2016

500 Block

500 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redevelopment of the 100,000-SF Boyle Building into an Aloft Hotel, $22 million
Status: On hold until the adjoining unfinished M.M. Cohn redevelopment can be restarted by a new owner.

510 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redevelopment of the 62,688-SF M.M. Cohn Building, $3.6 million
Status: Except for a belated flurry of activity to try to complete ground-floor space for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the project is dormant. The tardy Scott Reed project bears a $1.2 million lien claim by AMR Contractors for unpaid work.

514 Main St. and 524 Main St.

(Karen E. Segrave)

Redevelopment of the 21,000-SF Arkansas Annex and 41,816-SF Arkansas Building are part of Scott Reed’s way off-schedule Main Street Lofts project, $5 million.

Status: The 30 apartments on the second and third floors are in a half-complete state at best. The ground-floor space is a mix of finished and mostly finished space more than a year behind schedule. The Arkansas Repertory Theatre has moved into its space, although finishing touches remain, but space for the Arkansas Ballet and Matt McLeod Fine Art is still not ready for final inspection. Building inspectors last month gave a certificate of occupancy that allowed Cranford Co. to move in. The ad firm is working to complete its studio space in the basement. The buildings also are tied to the $1.2 million lien claim by AMR Contractors for unpaid work.

600 Block

601 Main St.

Renovation of The Rep, $6 million
Status: Complete

610 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redevelopment of the 31,000-SF storefront into the Urban Garden Montessori School, $1 million
Status: Complete

615 Main St.

(Sierra Wheeler)

Redevelopment of the 13,146-SF Fulk-Arkansas Democrat Building into eight loft apartments and Raimondo Winery, $2.3 million
Status: In motion