It’s been two years since Arkansas Business reported on the planned renovation of the historic Hotel Pines in Pine Bluff, so your Whispers staff decided to drive down a few weeks ago and check it out.
And what we found was … not much. Very little work appeared to have been done from what was, admittedly, a cursory examination of the exterior.
So we called Tom Reilley, founder and chairman of Highland Pellets, a $229 million wood pellet manufacturing plant that opened in Pine Bluff in late 2016. Reilley sits on the board of Pine Bluff Rising, the nonprofit that bought the six-story, 105,000-SF hotel for $1 on Jan. 17, 2017.
With the multimillion-dollar renovation, Pine Bluff Rising hoped to attract visitors to downtown Pine Bluff as part of a larger effort by Go Forward Pine Bluff to revitalize the city.
“The dream is still alive,” Reilley said, though “we will have to reassess things once the coronavirus is done. We’re just maintaining the property in the meantime.”
Since 2018, Pine Bluff has seen the opening of the Saracen Annex, the opening act of the Saracen Casino Resort, which the Quapaw Tribe hopes to open by late September. The resort is expected to draw big crowds once it opens, which could add momentum to Hotel Pines renovation plans, but the pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty in the hospitality industry.