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  • As printed in The Daily Record

Thoughts on licensing, K-Mart and a big church

To the chagrin of some, the amazement of others, and the support of many, over the last few years the Arkansas Real Estate Commission has upped the requirements for retaining a real estate license in the great State of Arkansas. A couple of years ago an additional hour of safety training was added in recognition of Beverly Carter’s tragic death. Last year specified training for licensed brokers, vs. salespersons, went into effect. Three hours of real estate forms education is now required annually. And three approved elective hours are required. For licensees that are also members of the trade association that is the layered groups of the National Association of Realtors, the Arkansas Realtors Association, and the Little Rock Realtors Association, be sure to complete the quadrennial ethics requirement. (Is it just me or is ethics something that you probably got from your parents, not from a trade association seminar? Having sat through those classes I’m positive there’s a better way to describe them.)

As a side note and social commentary here, if requirements to retain a driver’s license were remotely similar to the requirements to retain licenses for activities as dangerous as real estate, accounting, the legal profession, (just to name a few) the total number of senseless deaths caused by automobiles would fall dramatically. For the sake of public safety autonomous vehicles cannot get here quickly enough, in my opinion. There’s no way the legislature will ever successfully significantly increase the requirements to receive or retain a license for people to randomly run traffic signals, text and drive, or otherwise terrorize their neighbors. Thank goodness the public is so effectively protected from dangerous real estate deals, hazardous tax returns, perilous business contracts, or other precarious professional activities across the state. Countless lives are saved daily thanks to all the licensing and continuing education requirements, I’m sure. (For the new or infrequent readers that might think I’m maligning the requirements of real estate licensing, I’m not. Frankly they could be greater. The point to this social commentary is that it is entirely too easy for any, and apparently every, idiot to be given—emphasis on given, as in NOT earned—and keep, a driver’s license legalizing their general, and sometimes complete, incompetence; thereby endangering each of you and everyone you love.)

Over at Pleasant Valley Plaza along Rodney Parham Road at the interchange with Interstate 430, a real estate advisor to the property owners has stepped in and become partners with the property owners. In a transaction transferring partial ownerships, an entity controlled by Hank Kelley gained title via one deed to an 8.738 percent undivided ownership in the property and via another deed gained title to a 37.896 percent undivided ownership in the property. The attested values assigned to each deed were $580,347 and $2,517,000 respectively. For those who don’t want to, or won’t, do the math, that’s ~$3,097,347 for 46.634 percent. If that is extrapolated to be representative of the value of the property (I’m not saying that it is representative), the sum is ~$6,641,822. A third deed for a 16.548 percent partial interest was granted to an entity called VPV Properties, LLC and valued at $1,099,088. The extrapolated value for the aggregate is the same. VPV appears to be controlled by the Ramsey family. The Ramseys apparently still control The Village at Pleasant Valley, LLC, the entity that granted the partial interests. At face value it seems that even though The Village at Pleasant Valley now has a minority position, the Ramseys may maintain a majority interest thanks to controlling both Village at Pleasant Valley and VPV Properties. The final point to this exercise is to note that the last recorded sale of the property was for $7,299,000 in 1996, almost 22 years ago for a lower valuation than this 2018 division of interest is recorded.

The big wildcard of the potential redevelopment of the intersection of Rodney Parham Road and Interstate 430 is the empty K-Mart building. It is physically vacant, however K-Mart (Sears Holdings) still pays rent on the building. That obligation still has some time on it. There’s been much gossip around town about the possibility of Kroger relocating from the current location in Colony West and taking over the K-Mart. That hasn’t worked out so far. And, does the grocery moving across the highway really stimulate redevelopment in the area? Or is it just musical chairs? I submit to you that the K-Mart location is large enough and possesses enough of the necessary elements to potentially attract a warehouse-type retailer that has looked from time-to-time for a location in Little Rock. No one has suggested there is any change in that group selecting a site. This is just an observation on my part, and perhaps a little wishful thinking. It would be nice to see some more reinvestment in the area to follow what Market Place shopping center has done a couple of blocks away. Thank you Messrs. Vogel.

First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock added last month to already substantial land holdings along Interstate 40 near the intersection with Interstate 30. Four parcels totaling just over 62 acres were bought at a total cost of over $1,700,000. Back in 2012 the church acquired almost 90 acres contiguous to this latest purchase and paid about $1,058,000 at the time. A couple of the parcels in the 2012 assemblage were gifts to the church so comparing the costs of the acquisitions gets distorted. At this point, First Pentecostal Church owns the lion’s share of the land along the south side of Interstate 40, west of North Hills Blvd., and north of 19th Street all the way west to Interstate 30. Those properties total over 150 acres of unimproved, and somewhat “wet” land directly across the highway from the current church buildings. One parcel, right in the curve of the intersection is the last undeveloped tract in that area not owned by First Pentecostal Church. It has been more than a few years back that this property was proposed to be a regional shopping center with a Bass Pro Shops, a multi-screen theater, many retail stores, and nearly a score of restaurants. My how a decade or so can change plans, and fortunes.

In the two decades past, the northwest corner of the state has blossomed while much of the rest of the state has faded or at best held steady, NEA excluded. I reckon all readers of this column are familiar with the question of is the glass half-full or is it half-empty. I ask you, is the economy of Little Rock stable or is it stagnant? I submit to you that it is time for leaders to step up, and that it is time for change.

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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