“It’s beautiful, right?” said Christopher Dickie, standing in the dim but grand arched gymnasium at the old Oak Grove High School in North Little Rock. “Residents will be able to come here and shoot hoops, there will be a fenced-off weight room over there, and the other half [of the gym floor] will be meditation and yoga.”
Dickie’s Natural State Recovery Centers, which has a 10-employee outpatient facility in Little Rock, has hired the engineering firm Hope Consulting of Benton and its Titan General Contractors affiliate to turn the 26-acre campus into a residential addiction recovery center.
Dickie, a member of the Arkansas Alcohol & Drug Abuse Coordinating Council, showed a Whispers staffer around the campus last week after a neighbor or two grumbled about a lack of work at the site. The buildings’ exteriors are a bit dilapidated, but the bones are good, Dickie said. The Pulaski County Special School District spent millions of dollars two decades ago to free them of asbestos.
The renovation is just starting, but Dickie sees nothing but possibilities in the residential program, which he hopes to have up and running “soon.” He pointed to old administrative offices that will be waiting areas, and a former library that will become a dining room. He envisions dog pens for animal therapy, a room for art and a refurbished track for long, peaceful walks.
Natural State Recovery paid $500,000 for the 26-acre property at year’s end; the high school itself was closed in 2013. Dickie, who is overseeing a renovation estimated at $1.3 million, hopes to hire 15 to 20 people for the center, staffing detox facilities, a renovated kitchen and overseeing residential suites for patients.
Residents will spend about a month at the facility itself, part of a 90-day program, and complete recovery at the outpatient facility now operating on Cantrell Road.
Bill Hope Jr. told Whispers his engineering company has worked with Dickie on the project from the start. “They asked us to help them find a site, and we did, and we were putting the puzzle pieces together when coronavirus hit, and it delayed things for a little while,” Hope said Wednesday. “Now we’re getting back from that, and getting everything started.”