- Associated Press - Friday, July 3, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The remnants of the Majestic Hotel have sat in a pile of rubble for more than a year after a fire destroyed the oldest portion of the historic Hot Springs landmark.

The Hot Springs Board of Directors voted Thursday evening to make an offer to purchase the hotel from the Missouri owner to clean up the rubble and possibly replace the remaining structure with a public amenity.

While most residents in the downtown neighborhood want the debris cleaned up, some are rallying to protect portions of the crumbling building they say can and should be restored to its former glory.

Brenda Brandenburg, who runs a Facebook group dedicated to saving the hotel, said Friday that she hopes the city will consider renovating a red brick portion built in the 1920s.

“You’re going to see overwhelming support to restore at least the red brick portion,” she said. “There’s a 1960s portion, called Lanai Towers and Suites. Those were added on … and I think people would be willing to let those be torn down if it means we can save the red brick part. Then something could be built or developed around it.”

Brandenburg, a 52-year-old nurse, said hundreds of people have memories of the hotel that housed the Boston Red Sox when they would trek to Hot Springs for spring training.

She said her earliest memories revolve around helping her father, Tosy Brandenburg, a local musician, haul his drums through the lobby past the fountain that circulated hot water from the city’s namesake springs.

The portion of the hotel built in the late 1800s was destroyed by a fire in February 2013. The city began fighting with the out-of-state owner a few months later, pushing for him to clean up the debris.

The Hot Springs Board of Directors plans to offer the owner $680,000 for the remaining two buildings and the 5.1-acre property. Residents have thrown out proposals for a park, a swimming pool, an amphitheater and selling the property to a private developer.

City Manager David Watkins said there is an ongoing economic development study to determine what might be the best option and nothing has been taken off the table.

“There’s been tremendous support for the city to take the lead role in this,” he said. “There were standing ovations at the end of the meeting (Thursday). Several ideas have been thrown around, but the first thing we’re going to prioritize is cleaning up the rubble.”

Watkins said the city would then do an environmental study to determine the cleanup and cost of demolishing part or all of the remaining buildings.

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