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New NLR Hotel to Get Conference Center as Neighbor, Mayor Says

4 min read

Plans for building a high-rise boutique hotel at the site of the old Greyhound bus station on Washington Avenue in downtown North Little Rock are moving ahead after the city executed agreements Wednesday with developer Kal Makan.

Makan put a cost estimate on all aspects of the project at “upwards of $50 million.”

And the city is planning a companion piece to the hotel: Building a conference center on the site of the newly-vacated City Services Building just up the street from the hotel site at 120 N. Main Street. The building, constructed as the 38,000-SF headquarters of First American National Bank in 1967, is set to be demolished.

The city, which sold the Greyhound site to Makan Hospitality Management for $620,650, also owns the former bank building. Mayor Terry Hartwick told Arkansas Business that he and the City Council expect the planned conference center to complement the hotel project, tentatively named The Argenta.

The developer gave a few details about the hotel in a telephone interview Wednesday. 

“We are now moving full force in regards to the project, because we just executed documents this afternoon,” Makan said. “We will be reaching out to brands and seeing what is available from a boutique hotel standpoint.”

Makan, chief operating officer and director of operations for Makan Hospitality Management, expects the hotel to benefit from nearby Simmons Bank Arena, proximity to the Little Rock Convention Center across the Arkansas River, and “the convention center going in” at the former city services site.

“We want to make sure that we have the ability to maximize our opportunity here,” Makan said in response to a question about how many floors the project might have. Some reports had mentioned plans for up to 14 stories.

“We may stack additional stories of hotel rooms or condos or whatever the C-6 zoning allows us to do,” he said. “We have to work with the [hotel] brands, the city and so forth. But long story short, we have about 180 days to come back to the city with a development plan, a site review plan.”

Makan said his company already has a hotel on McCain Boulevard, Candlewood Suites, and “we’re going to be doing another one, a TownePlace Suites by Marriott,” also on McCain. “And then we have various other buildings that we have scattered around North Little Rock, whether it be a doctor’s building, an office building, restaurants and so forth. Currently with the TownePlace project, we have about $25 million to $28 million already invested in North Little Rock.”

Makan said the hotel will be a “high-end project” that could possibly house retail space or even offices. “I know office is almost non-existent nowadays, but you never know who wants to be in North Little Rock.”

North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick

“I’m very excited,” Mayor Hartwick said. “You know, the Greyhound bus station is something that I brought over in 1986, I guess, and I oversaw tearing it down last year. But the hotel going there is a great project to have, and Kal has got The Burgundy Hotel in Little Rock with Table 28 on top, so he knows what he’s doing.”

Table 28 is a rooftop restaurant at The Burgundy in west Little Rock.

“Simmons Arena [just a hundred yards or so from the planned hotel, between Washington Avenue and East Broadway] has 30-some-odd events a year, and I’m ready to put a conference center in the area, so I can foresee a lot of people coming to stay at the hotel and enjoy our downtown facilities,” Hartwick said.

The mayor praised the work of the city Director of Development Robert Birch and Director of Economic Development Colleen Bailey for helping bring the projects together. “They did a great job, and I look for other projects to join them soon.”

About 150 city employees who previously worked at 120 N. Main St. are mostly now stationed at 700 W. 29th St., the 92,000-SF former Blue Cross Blue Shield building off Pershing Boulevard that the city spent $5 million to obtain last year. The building is just south of Interstate 40 and west of the Hays Senior Center and the North Little Rock Community Center.

And what of the old City Services/First American building?

“My intent is to auction off the merchandise in that building,” the mayor said. “I’d like to see that City Services Building torn down before this summer, and get some builders and architects together.”

Hartwick predicts construction of the conference center could begin by the third quarter or fourth quarter of this year.

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