by Max Brantley
Word is circulating about an old hot issue in the Hillcrest neighborhood -- redevelopment of the property formerly used by Easter Seals at the eastern end of Lee Avenue on property owned by the Arkansas School for the Blind. Easter Seals owns the building (see below), which is badly out of place in an otherwise residential neighborhood.
Speculators have long eyed the property for a variety of uses (condos were popular ideas) and Easter Seals has long wanted to capitalize by selling the building, often with little regard for how proposed uses might affect the neighbors.
Now comes something different. A developer, represented by an architect, has begun inquiries about a plan that seems to call for razing the Easter Seals building (presumably after purchase from Easter Seals) and building single family homes on land now occupied by the building and parking lot. Berry Street, parallel to Lee one block south, also would be extended for more homes immediately south of the redeveloped Easter Seals property. A memo going around says the homes would mostly be around 2,000 square feeet, with some bigger homes at the eastern end of the two streets. The property is in a scenic spot overlooking acres of forested property that is part of the parcel including Knoop Park, which rings the water treatment plant.
I can't gauge neighbors' reaction yet. They've been intensely protective of the neighborhood previously. But a conversion of what once had been a high-use commercial building to single-family infill homes sounds -- at least at first blush -- like the most promising redevelopment plan so far. New traffic on Berry Street, now only about a block-and-a-half long, probably will be a bit of a sore point. It runs off Kavanaugh and crosses North Woodrow before dead-ending at a small apartment building.