The North Little Rock City Council approved the sale of the old Greyhound bus station property on Washington Avenue to a hotel firm, setting the stage for a potential 14-story hotel that would include condominium space, a restaurant and office space.
If the hotel project goes through, it would be the first significant development on the eastern end of the Washington Avenue area since an apartment complex and what is now Simmons Bank Arena were built.
The City Council approved the $620,650 sale of the property Monday night to Makan Hospitality Management and authorized the mayor of North Little Rock to carry out the deal.
Kal Makan, chief operating officer and director of operations for Makan Hospitality Management, made a presentation to the City Council last week about the hotel complex. He said the name would be tied to the history of North Little Rock, possibly "The Argenta." Argenta is the name of the historic section of downtown North Little Rock.
According to the agreement, the buyer will construct "a high-end boutique-style hotel that will include a rooftop bar and high-end restaurant. The hotel will include apartment-style suites and two or three floors of luxury condominiums." The document calls for the city to cooperate with the buyer "to secure permission to valet park on Poplar Street" and negotiate a lease for additional parking on a city-owned parking lot at the corner of North Poplar Street and East Broadway.
The agreement also states that if the buyer does not start construction within a year of closing the property sale, the "city shall have the right to compel" the buyer to return the title of the property "to the city in exchange for payment to Buyer of the Purchase Price, less five percent (5%)."
The city will also have development control of the property for three years, which would include the architectural appearance, size, proposed use and external improvements, according to the agreement.
As North Little Rock became home to the arena and the Dickey-Stephens Park, city officials have long expressed interest in seeing hotels develop in downtown North Little Rock.
But while North Little Rock wound up with the athletic facilities originally envisioned by some Little Rock civic leaders for the capital city, downtown Little Rock became the area along the riverfront where hotels began to sprout.
One project in North Little Rock appeared promising in 2008, when the New Argenta Fund organization announced plans for a $28 million hotel in the Argenta District at the corner of Broadway and Maple Street. The hotel would have been eight to 12 stories, with 130 guest rooms, 15,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a 300-space parking deck, according to an article in Arkansas Business. The project never materialized.
Makan said he is ready to to get started on his hotel project.
Frank Fletcher, an entrepreneur who owns auto dealerships, real estate and the Wyndham Riverfront hotel in North Little Rock, would have a bit of competition if plans for The Argenta are approved.
Tom Roy, chief financial officer for Fletcher's business endeavors, said another hotel in the downtown area would bring it "up-to-date." He said they welcome the competition, as "all ships must rise with the tide."