- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The 12-story, 105-year-old Boyle Building at Capitol Avenue and Main Street in downtown Little Rock will be developed into a hotel, according to Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola.

Main Street Lofts LLC, led by managing partner Scott Reed, sold the building to Chi Hotel Group LLC, led by Jacob Chi. Chi said the group includes himself, his parents and brother.

Reed and Chi declined to disclose the price paid for the building. Main Street Lofts bought the building along with four other adjacent buildings in 2012 for $1.5 million.

The hotel brand is still being worked out, Stodola said.

“I don’t think it is quite nailed down on what the hotel is,” the mayor told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1qwrx9x).

He also said he expects a “major” restaurant will move into the building.

“We’ve already seen millions of dollars invested in Main Street,” Stodola said. “This is another huge injection of money.”

Reed and Chi both declined to reveal specific plans for the historic building, which has been vacant for a number of years.

“We’ve got some contractual obligations that forbid us from making specific statements,” Chi said.

He said a news conference would be held in the coming weeks to provide details about the project.

The building is “historically very significant,” Chi said. “I know that it’s probably the first classified skyscraper in Little Rock.”

The planned hotel will continue a trend of hotel development in Little Rock, with it being the sixth hotel planned or already built downtown in the past decade.

The Chi family already owns two hotels in west Little Rock, Chi said. The family also owns five restaurants and they are nearing completion of a 15,000-square-foot building on Cantrell Road near the Pleasant Ridge Town Center that will house a sushi restaurant, a dry-cleaners and two other tenants.

The Chis also are investors in the downtown revival.

They are partners in Capitol Lofts LLC, which is renovating the Hall and Davidson buildings on Capitol Avenue, a block west of Main, Chi said.

Reed, a Portland, Ore., developer, is the lead investor on several downtown projects, including the Capitol Lofts apartments, Main Street Lofts and K Lofts.

“We are very dedicated to seeing Main Street return to its former glory,” Reed said. “To that end, we’ve made a lot of moves we think help further the future outlook of the street. The sale of this building to the Chi family makes us think it is another step in the right direction for Main Street. This will be a new high-water mark for Main Street.”

Reed and his partners initially planned to develop the Boyle Building into 100 loft apartments.

“We were going to put loft apartments in it,” Reed said. “We would have leased them up just fine, and they would have been very popular.”

But when they saw the plans that the Chi family had for the Boyle Building, they decided to sell to the Chis so they could implement their vision, Reed said.

“What they have planned we think will raise the whole area,” Reed said. “That’s why we were willing to sell it to them. Even though it is the signature building of the buildings we have downtown. We were just that impressed with the Chis’ plan.”

The Chis have been working for the past six months with architects, engineers and contractors to prepare the building. It should take 12 to 18 months for the project to be completed, Reed said.

Reed said Main Street Lofts LLC had already completed all the environmental remediation work on the building.

The other five hotels developed in the past decade in downtown Little Rock include a total of 596 rooms.

The most recently announced plan was by Little Rock-based Pinnacle Group, which said in December that it will build a 135-room, seven-story Hilton Garden Inn on the southern end of a block whose boundaries are Third, Fourth, Rock and Cumberland streets. It is expected to open in early 2016.

The McKibbon Group Inc. of Gainesville, Ga., will build a 115-room Hilton Homewood Suites on land formerly occupied by the Arkla Gas Co. building, which has been razed. It will occupy the north half of the block whose boundaries are Capitol and River Market avenues and Rock and Fourth streets. Moses Tucker Real Estate is building the 84-unit MacArthur Commons apartments on the southern half.

The 107-room Residence Inn by Marriott, operated by the McKibbon Group, opened last year on President Clinton Avenue. McKibbon opened the Hampton Inn and Suites, with 119 rooms, in 2008. The 120-room Marriott Courtyard started the trend when the McKibbon Group opened it in 2004 on President Clinton Avenue.

The downtown market is dominated by the 418-room Little Rock Marriott, which, including its predecessors, has been at 3 Statehouse Plaza for more than 30 years. It’s lease was bought last year by Memphis-based Fairwood Capital LLC from the Peabody Hotel Group. The 288-room Doubletree Hotel, a Hilton property, likewise, was built well before the 21st-century trend.

The Boyle Building first was first known as the State National Bank Building in 1909, Reed said. The bank went out of business in 1911, according to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. In 1916, John Boyle, president of Boyle Realty, paid the back taxes and bought the lease on the building, which he renamed the Boyle Building, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program said.

Several prominent businesses occupied the building for more than 40 years. Then in 1960, the M.M. Cohn Co. signed a 40-year lease for the first five floors. M.M. Cohn was sold in April 1989 to the Dunlap Co. Dunlap closed the store in the Boyle Building later that year.

The Capitol-Main Historic District is being nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.


Rachel Chaney of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed to this report


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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