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  • As printed in The Daily Record

Closings and Rezonings

In April, Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and K-Mart stores, released a list of seventy-eight stores that will be closing this year. In Arkansas, only the Sears at 600 S. University was announced to be closing. Frankly, maybe it would be a good thing if some of the other stores closed too. Maybe more jobs, more commerce, and more sales tax revenue might come from the redevelopment of Sears and K-Mart stores. I know first-hand that in addition to exuberant interest in the University Avenue Sears, there is interest from new-to-the-market retailers in the McCain Mall Sears location in North Little Rock and in the K-Mart location on Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock. I suspect many K-Mart and Sears locations might have more shoppers, who might be spending more money, if other merchants occupied those buildings.

Some of you may have seen the zoning notice posted on the IHOP at Markham Street and University Avenue. Fear not. It was not for the closing of IHOP. Well at least not a permanent closing. IHOP is proposing to demolish the existing restaurant and construct a brand new building. Challenges to the plan of replacing an IHOP with an IHOP were presented by the Midtown Design Overlay District. The Planning Commission was agreeable to help IHOP clear some of those hurdles. If things don’t work out for final approval of the replacement building, maybe later on there could be a spot for them at the soon-to-be-former Sears location.

A store that is closing in the Midtown area of Little Rock is the James Avery jewelry store in the Midtowne Little Rock shopping center. I have it on very good authority that the landlord has already received offers for leasing of the James Avery space. Also in Midtown (without the superfluous “e”), is the prospective closing of One Banc at 4520 W. Markham Street. The Little Rock Planning Commission denied an application for the opening of a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop there. It seems that the property is zoned for a bank with a drive-thru, and is zoned for a restaurant, and is not however zoned for a restaurant with a drive-thru. Go ahead. Puzzle on that one a while.

There is a Jimmy John’s, with a drive-up window, further west on West Markham. This one is located next to an undeveloped city park. Presumably the squirrels and the turtles didn’t object to the drive-thru window. Closing the loop on a previous observation that La Madeleine is opening in Little Rock, it now is, at 12210 W Markham St. The location is adjacent to the aforementioned Jimmy John’s and the Chick-fil-A located in the parking lot of The Home Depot at West Markham Street & Chenal Parkway.

Jimmy John’s was not the only disappointed applicant at the Planning Commission last month. The Cantrell Heights shopping center, home to Taziki’s and other local merchants, applied to zone the vacant lot next door to be a part of the shopping center, so that the front parking lot and the back parking lot could be connected on the west end and both parking areas could function as one parking area with circulation around the building. That was not recommended for approval either.

A little bird told me last week that there is interest in another zoning request on Cantrell Road. You may recall, or be aware of, the new Regions Bank building on the west side of University Ave. between Cantrell Road and “R” Street. Well, there are 3 houses next to Regions, fronting on Cantrell, that are being looked at for redevelopment. These houses are at the northwest corner of Cantrell Road & University Avenue. Looking at the usual commercial zoning recommendations one might find that commercial nodes at the intersections of arterial streets are often favored. Something tells me that commercial development at this particular intersection, historically residential on 3 corners, might not find as much favor as some others.

The proposed slip ramp from westbound Arkansas Highway 10 to northbound Interstate Highway 430 has been deferred in favor of a fly-over ramp further west. (I can still see this new ramp being very much like a big ol’ Slip-n-Slide in bad weather.) Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has grand goals of reducing traffic congestion at the Hwy. 10 & I-430 interchange, and also intersection of Hwy. 10 and North Rodney Parham Road. Included in the plans for those intersections is widening of Hwy. 10 to at least the intersection with Sam Peck Road.

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department also seems to be making progress toward agreement among the parties interested in the I-30 Crossing project. Several presentations on the project were made the last week of April and several positive comments were noted. There is little doubt that there will be some people who remain unsatisfied with the proposed compromise. There always are those people.

While all this focus is on improvements of the highways crossing the Arkansas River, it seems like a good time to pose a question about adding another crossing. Arkansas Highway 365 and Arkansas Highway 300 are only about 2 miles from each other near Roland. Considering all the growth in Conway, Maumelle and on the west side of Little Rock, along with Bank of the Ozarks’ new campus, new shopping centers, and more being built near the intersection of Hwy. 10 and Hwy. 300, and with the increased growth (and traffic congestion) in Maumelle, maybe it makes sense to look at connecting Highway 365 and Highway 300 with a bridge over the Arkansas River. Maybe adding another point of crossing makes at least as much sense as trying to drive more and more traffic over the same existing crossings. That’s my thought for the month.

Tips and suggestions, well most of them anyway, are appreciated. Hope you found something interesting in the column this month. Check back again next month for the things that didn’t get included here this time and that pop up between now and then.

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