The Mosaic Templars State Temple in Little Rock will be renovated at a projected cost of about $500,000 and become home to the offices for the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and Arkansas Health Services Permit Agency later this year, state officials said Monday.
The building is located just south of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which is at Broadway and Ninth Street in Little Rock.
The King commission's current office is located in the 501 Building just east of the state Capitol. The Health Services Permit Agency's office is now in the Freeway Medical Tower Building at 5800 W. 10th St. in Little Rock.
The commission is tasked with promoting the legacy and philosophy of civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., while the agency is responsible for issuing permits of approval for nursing homes, residential care facilities, home health and hospice agencies, psychiatric residential care facilities and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, according to state websites. The two agencies have four employees apiece, officials for both said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the commission will move to the first floor of the Mosaic Templars State Temple and the permit agency will move to the second floor later this year.
Agency Director Tracy Steele, a former Democratic state senator and representative, was executive director of the commission from 1994-2006. DuShun Scarbrough is the commission's current executive director.
"I appreciate their personal commitment to it," Hutchinson said at a news conference at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. "They had to adjust things. They had to get out of other leases and participate in support of this, so we are grateful because this is a good investment for the people of Arkansas."
This renovation project will preserve the state's history in a financially sound way and maximize the use of the Mosaic Templars State Temple, Hutchinson said. The temple was in the historical business and entertainment district of Little Rock's black community.
Scarbrough said he's always felt a burden to do more as the commission's executive director to carry out King's legacy, and "moving into this building I feel a greater responsibility and that torch has been passed by the Mosaic Templars themselves."
Steele said that to "now to be a neighbor [of the commission] is a tremendous honor."
Hutchinson recalled that members of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus and others told him that "there is an adjoining building that we need to acquire to add to this cultural center." He said he questioned why, and they indicated "that's the original building, that's the only original building that is still standing." The cultural center itself is in a modern building that replaced a historic building destroyed by fire during renovation.
"As a result of their advocacy for it and the fact it made sense and the fact that it is such a historical building, I was delighted to support, as well as [Arkansas Heritage] Director [Stacy] Hurst in her leadership, in finding the money to make the acquisition of the State Temple that adjoins this building," Hutchinson said.
In March 2017, the state Department of Arkansas Heritage purchased the Mosaic Templars State Temple from the Kilgore Revocable Trust for $950,000, department spokesman Melissa Whitfield said after the news conference. The funds came from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, Whitfield said.
Hurst said the renovation will be financed with existing state resources. After the news conference, she said the department will use $395,391 in state conservation tax revenue, along with $140,000 in discretionary funds.
Architect Tommy Jameson said the Mosaic Templars State Temple was renovated 15 to 17 years ago for Premier MRI, which leased the building, "but a lot of those improvements are still there."
"Our task with this project was not to restore the building, but to put into a state of utility for these two tenants that will be on the first and second floors," he said. "A lot of what you see in the building won't really change all that much. It will be cleaned up, a lot of deferred maintenance, a new roof, new mechanical systems.
"The best thing that will happen is the air conditioner corral in the back that looks like a prison will be gone," Jameson said.
Hurst said this project has been in the works for two years, and many stakeholders have supported and encouraged it.
Afterward, state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said, "It is definitely a positive move that the temple is now in the possession of the state, that it's no longer just on the block to be sold, because that's one way we are going to preserve history.
"I wish there has been more collaboration with the community about partnerships that are going to be part of the temple because there was initial interest from some community groups who wanted to at least have some input or maybe even have some interest in being a part of partnership there," she said. "I think it is really important to improve communication between the community and Miss Hurst in particular, so that we know what is going on."
Elliott said it's a good fit for the King commission to be located there, but she "would not have thought about the Health Permitting Agency in there."
Hurst said she communicated with a number of potential tenants and made them aware of the opportunity to lease space within the building after the purchase, including Charles Stewart with the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, Laverne Paige with the Milton P. Crenchaw Aviation Training Academy, ShaRhonda Love with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission and Patricia Brown, director of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
"Governor Hutchinson had asked Anne Laidlaw at [the Division of Building Authority] to explore potential state agency tenants. We worked with Anne to get commitments and firm leases from the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and the Arkansas Health Services Permit Agency. The others simply did not materialize, but there has been no 'disagreement,' to my knowledge," Hurst said in an email.
Metro on 04/24/2018