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Update: Boyle Building Revival Seen as Spark For Capitol Avenue

3 min read

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Tuesday announced a $35 million project to renovate the Boyle Building in downtown Little Rock and for the state to take ownership of the historic skyscraper.

Under the plan, Griffin’s staff of about 150 would become the main tenant of the 12-story building at Capitol Avenue and Main Street. Griffin said the move would save taxpayers millions in rent that his office pays to occupy much of the 18-story Tower Building, located a few blocks away at 323 Center Street. According to Griffin, the state has paid about $30 million to rent the space over the past few decades.

The Attorney General’s Office plans to occupy the Boyle Building under a 20-year lease with new owner Moses Tucker Partners of Little Rock. The lease gives the state the option to purchase the 90,997-SF building in the fifth year.

Plans also call for 5,000 SF of commercial space on the ground floor and 7,000 SF of office space leased to other tenants.

Moses Tucker Partners closed on the purchase of the building Thursday. The cost of the transaction wasn’t immediately disclosed or available in public records.

Jimmy Moses said Tuesday that work is expected to begin within 30 days, with a completion date in fall 2024. The lead architect on the project is District Design PLLC of Little Rock. Central Construction Group of Little Rock is the lead contractor.

The Boyle Building has been vacant for almost 25 years. It was previously owned by the Chi Hotel Group LLC of Little Rock, which purchased the building in 2014 for $4.6 million.

The property was built in 1909 as the State Bank Building. The Chi Hotel Group, led by Jacob and Jasen Chi, once had plans to redevelop the building into an Aloft hotel.

The company began gutting the building ahead of redevelopment but work soon stalled. As of 2017, plans for the hotel had been scuttled, and the owners were considering turning the building into apartments.

But the building has sat empty since then.

Location, location, location

The project is reviving a vacant building at the expense of an occupied one, but supporters said they believe it will have a broader impact on the health of downtown, mostly because of the Boyle Building’s location at Capitol and Main.

Moses said he thinks the project will be a catalyst for the redevelopment of Capitol Avenue as a “magnificent thoroughfare” linking the State Capitol to the downtown business district.

“I think the Boyle Building redevelopment will kick this off and we will see absolutely phenomenal things happen,” he said. “And I think in a few short years, like five or less, you’ll begin to see buildings emerge along Capitol Avenue, I hope, occupied by both private and public sector firms.”

Gabe Holmstrom, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, said the intersection where the Boyle Building is located has traditionally been the “alpha intersection” of downtown. He sees the building adding to the revitalization of Main Street in recent years and becoming a linchpin for additional investment in the area.

The project comes as the city develops its first master plan for downtown, which will aim to address commercial development, downtown residential density and tourism, and other challenges. In a statement, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said, in part, that the Boyle Building project is a “key component of the revitalization of the Capitol Avenue Corridor.”

Questions now surround the future of the 18-story Tower Building, which is losing a major tenant during a commercial real estate downturn that has left other downtown skyscrapers with large blocks of vacant space. The Attorney General’s Office occupies 10 floors of the 193,906-SF building. Its current vacancy rate is about 15%.

Holmstrom said the Downtown Little Rock Partnership had not spoken to the Tower Building’s owners about what’s next for the property.

Lance Turner contributed information to this report.

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