FAYETTEVILLE — The civic plaza of the city’s cultural arts corridor downtown could have a seven-story, 170-room hotel with public space on the ground floor, pending City Council approval.
The city’s Arts Council, an advisory panel of local artists, saw preliminary concepts for a building on the southern end of the plaza during its Wednesday meeting. Architect Rob Sharp presented the plans with Peter Nierengarten, the city’s environmental director.
Developer Brian Reindl is behind the project. Reindl owns adjacent land to the south, known as the Metro District building housing Rolando’s Restaurante, Cork & Keg, Prelude Breakfast Bar and other businesses.
The civic plaza of the Ramble, as the arts corridor is called, will replace the 290 spaces in the parking lot west of the Walton Arts Center. The city is in the middle of building a replacement parking deck west of West Avenue near Watson Street to the north. Construction on the civic plaza won’t begin until the deck is finished, likely next spring.
Windsor Aughtry is the hotel developer and consultant on the project. The Greenville, S.C., company specializes in commercial real estate and brokerage in the southeast United States, according to its website. C.R. Crawford Construction in Fayetteville is signed on as the general contractor.
Concepts show a building with two distinct sides east and west. The western side exhibits a look more like TheatreSquared, with charcoal and gray brick, a roof terrace, balcony and steel and prefinished metal. The eastern side looks more like the historic industrial loft building the University of Arkansas uses for offices at 340 N. West Ave., with a red brick veneer and painted cement.
The Frisco Trail of the Razorback Greenway winding through the parking lot now would have a path in front of the Metro District building, enabling users to go around the civic plaza if they want. A path also would go east of the hotel, through the plaza. The two paths would meet at the northwest corner of the plaza and continue north as it does now.
Concepts show a covered drop-off spot for guests and loading on the southern face of the hotel building. No parking specific to the hotel was shown in the concepts.
The ground floor facing the plaza would have a pass-through area for pedestrians and an open lobby with a cafe, restaurant and retail space planned. The city asked public restrooms be made available for visitors to the civic plaza, Sharp told the council. Sharp asked council members about opportunities for art and input on a general motif for the hotel.
A performance stage and grassy knoll would sit immediately north of the hotel’s ground floor, with speakers pointed north away from the building, Nierengarten said.
Although Reindl owns the land immediately south, the city owns the land where the proposed hotel would sit. The City Council will have final say on its use, City Attorney Kit Williams said. Reindl would have to purchase the land, and the council can place deed restrictions on the property that any future owners would have to follow, he said.
According to a 2019 appraisal report, the entire 2.84-acre site for the civic plaza had a market value of more than $6.1 million. The 15,200-square-foot portion proposed for the southern end building had a value of $846,000.
The hotel project is in the conceptual phase, and the city and Reindl haven’t determined exact property boundaries, said Wade Abernathy, the city’s facilities director. A survey and independent appraisal would be done if the council approves a letter of intent on the project, he said.
The council will have an obligation to determine the most beneficial use of the land to residents and visitors, not the most profitable use for a developer, Williams said.
“You don’t want to be overly restrictive on a developer, but on the other hand, they should be very careful to protect the interests of the taxpayers and the people who will be going to the civic plaza,” he said.
Nierengarten said a proposal may go before the City Council in September.
Ted Belden and Greg House, owners of the property immediately north of the civic plaza, also plan to build a hotel at the northwest corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue. The pair worked out a deal with the city to sell a portion of their land to use for the parking deck. They reserved the right to build a sixth and seventh floor on top of the deck. House said their plan is to have additional parking on the sixth floor and potentially have offices or condominiums on the seventh floor with a rooftop bar.
As part of the deal with the city, the pair will build a building at the northern end of the civic plaza. Previous concepts, also by Sharp, showed it as a four-story food hall with similar design to the train depot and freight buildings immediately north.
The hotel Belden and House plan to build is a private endeavor not associated with the city. House said the idea of two hotels within close proximity doesn’t seem like a wise choice.
Council Member Sonia Gutierrez Harvey sits on the arts council and praised the design of the hotel proposed for the southern end of the civic space, saying it presented a good marriage of contemporary and historic elements. She said the concepts appeared to show a lot of opportunities to integrate art into the space.
On the web
To see drawings of the proposed hotel, go to: nwaonline.com/722hotel/
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