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story.lead_photo.caption Workers install an air-conditioning unit Friday at the Ottenheimer Market Hall in downtown Little Rock. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

The Ottenheimer Market Hall in downtown Little Rock's River Market District has almost finished refreshing its air-conditioning system, after spending several weeks with a temporary unit parked outside its back doors.

The process to replace the old unit began last summer, said Diana Long, director of River Market Operations for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau operates the Market Hall at 400 President Clinton Ave., which is home to about 14 food vendors.

Things had begun to heat up in the Market Hall as the system stopped working.

"It just got so hot so fast," she said. "We had a couple of weeks where it was miserable down there."

The new unit will be installed in the next few days, Long said. The temporary unit won't be taken away until the new one is fully in place.

"People in the Market Hall are not really going to notice much of a difference," she said, noting that having air from the temporary unit piped in through the north back doors kept the hall at a comfortable temperature.

Some food vendors in the Market Hall said they had noticed higher temperatures over the past month and heard customers complaining, but their business wasn't affected much.

Long said the cost of the new unit was $208,000. There will be additional costs associated with structural work that will take place during the installation. The temporary air-conditioning unit cost about $15,000 to rent for about six weeks, she said.

The Market Hall will not close while the air conditioning work is being done. Other coming work at the hall includes re-covering some chairs and getting the wooden tables varnished, Long said.

Current vendors at the hall include Bangkok Thai Cuisine, Bea Blessed Bakery, Big on Tokyo, Casa Manana Taqueria, Garden Square Cafe and Grocery, Indian Feast, Jay's Pizza, Katmandu Mo Mo, Middle Eastern Cuisine & International Pantry, Old Mill Bread & Flour Co. and Platnum BBQ, as well as David's Burgers, which sits on the east side of the Market Hall and has its own air-conditioning system.

The Market Hall closed for one day in May so a collapsed sewer line under a city street could be replaced.

A former vendor, Omar Kassees of Mason's Grill, has criticized the Convention and Visitors Bureau for failing to appropriately address problems at the building. He said a basement sewage leak caused a smell that lingered and caused contaminated substances to drip onto his products. He also said the Market Hall had long-standing air-conditioning problems.

Long has said the complaint about the sewage leak is untrue and that Mason's Grill left the Market Hall after not paying rent multiple times during its lease term.

Metro on 07/21/2018

Print Headline: River Market's hall soon to feel cooler

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