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Hotel, store plans pitched for LR site

by Glen Chase | June 5, 2014 at 3:19 a.m.

A 4.9-acre parcel at University Avenue and 12th Street in Little Rock is being considered for a new five-story, 110-room hotel and a Murphy USA convenience store, according to applications pending before the Little Rock Planning Commission.

map showing former Brandon House Furniture site

BH University Development LLC filed applications for a preliminary plat to create a four-lot subdivision at the site, which once was the home of Brandon House Furniture at 1100 S. University Ave. The site is currently zoned I-2 for light industrial use.

One parcel will be used for a hotel, which has yet to be branded, according to an application letter signed by Joe White of White-Daters & Associates of Little Rock on behalf of the developers.

Developers are seeking a conditional use permit for the hotel, as well as a height variance of up to 60 feet for the hotel. Current rules for the I-2 zone allow structures up to 45-feet high.

Developers are seeking a planned commercial development rezoning for the convenience store lot. The application letter said the store would be 3,445 square feet, with 10 fueling stations on the side facing University Avenue. Plans call for ice machines, vacuum stations and a propane pad.

Nothing is currently being proposed for the other two lots in the subdivision.

Telephone messages left for James Barnes, one of three partners in BH University Development, weren't returned Wednesday. A message left for White also wasn't returned.

Donna James, subdivision administrator with the city Planning and Development Department, said the three applications, filed May 19, will be heard by the Planning Commission at its June 26 meeting. The city's staff members are reviewing the applications and have yet to make a recommendation.

While the commission can act on the preliminary plat and conditional use permit for the hotel, the convenience store's planned commercial development rezoning must be approved by the city Board of Directors since convenience stores aren't a permitted use in an I-2 zone.

James said that notices of the application have been sent to several neighborhood associations near the project, which has generated some discussion on Internet message boards.

Joe Busby, president of the University District Neighborhood Association, which represents 10 neighborhood associations around the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the issue isn't that the former Brandon House site is being developed, but how.

"We're highly concerned that all the developer can bring to the table is another convenience store," Busby said, saying that people living in the area would prefer a different kind of retailer/business for the corner lot being considered for the Murphy USA store. The hotel is a slightly different impact issue, he said, since even at five stories, it will be lower than adjacent homes to the west. However, he said people living nearby need assurances their property won't be damaged if a retaining wall must be built.

Murphy USA has 1,220 locations, according to its website, of which 1,030 are Murphy USA sites located near a Wal-Mart store. The remaining 190 are Murphy Express stations, which are larger, standalone stations that are more like traditional convenience stores. Murphy USA currently has 13 sites under construction and plans to add 49 by the end of the year.

The former Brandon House Furniture store and the building behind it were demolished in August. Company assets were auctioned off in 2004 as part of bankruptcy proceedings. Last year, the property was considered as a potential site for the Little Rock technology park, in combination with a site where a Sears store is located just north of Interstate 630. That proposal was later dropped.

Business on 06/05/2014

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