Saving The Arlington


Saving The Arlington
The Arlington Hotel & Spa in Hot Springs (Stephanie Dunn)

We were both encouraged and concerned by Senior Editor George Waldon’s report last week on the new owner of the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Al Rajabi. Encouraged because Rajabi, as the article noted, has “a track record of delivering some impressive hotel projects.” But concerned because the hotelier also has a history of heated rhetoric when it comes to dealing with city officials.

Rajabi’s purchase of the Arlington — one of those properties in Arkansas that actually merits the overused descriptor “iconic” — was announced in July, with Rajabi declaring his “strong interest in this grand hotel, its rich history and iconic location.”

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But, as most people know, the hotel’s previous owner, privately held Southwest Hotels Inc., has neglected the Arlington for decades. Last year — long before Rajabi’s purchase — the Hot Springs Building Safety Department sent the hotel a notice of unsafe conditions, and the Arlington attended to the most urgent problems.

Problems remained. Last month, after Rajabi’s purchase, the city said it would close the hotel if it failed to address safety concerns. A few days later, Rajabi, who has said he plans a $30 million investment in the 93-year-old hotel, complained that the city had treated him badly.

Last week, Hot Springs substituted the shutdown deadline with a timeline for repairs, and Rajabi sought to reassure all “that the hotel is safe. We continue to work in good faith with the city to pursue our goal of restoring the Arlington to its original glory.”

As City Attorney Brian Albright said, “Nobody wants to see the Arlington close,” and we agree, but we also agree that safety must come first.

Here’s hoping that all the players in this drama remember that a rejuvenated — but safe — Arlington Hotel is in everyone’s interest. May she prosper for another 100 years.