by Max Brantley
Interesting. The Board of the Central Arkansas Library System will convene shortly to hear about the revised plans for the aloft Hotel proposed next door to (and towering over) the Cox Center and other library buildings in the River Market neighborhood.
David Knight and the charming Curt Bradbury reportedly will be on hand to oppose the revised proposal on behalf of Stephens Inc., according to a memo sent to board members. Stephens Inc? Silly goose. Stephens owns the competing Capital Hotel down the way.
Now we see that it has not been only Library Director Bobby Roberts' considerable political skills that explain why the Moses-Tucker/Walter Hussman combine (D-G publisher Hussman owns the land in question) hasn't speedily gotten this new hotel approved. Major league political chess.
UPDATE: The Library Board said it remained opposed to the hotel as designed. Here's the letter the Board approved.
The meeting was marked by a heated exchange between Curt Bradbury and an aloft Hotel representative. On the jump, an account of events, including Bradbury's remark to the hotel developer that he'd made "an everlasting opponent for everything you try to do here."
The Central Arkansas Library System board of directors voted today to approve a letter from CALS director Bobby Roberts that reiterates the library's opposition to a new seven-story hotel proposed for the corner of Clinton Ave. and Commerce Street, despite changes to address their concerns about height and scale of the building.
On hand to speak in favor of the hotel project were developer Jimmy Moses, Downtown Partnership director Sharon Priest and Wes Townson, VP of McKibbon Hotel Group of Gainesville, Georgia, the company that wants to build the hotel. Addressing the board in opposition were David Knight, general counsel for Stephens, Inc., which owns the Capital Hotel; and Curt Bradbury, CEO for Stephens.
After a presentation by Townson, Knight rose and proceeded to compare the hotel developers to pirates from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, who see laws as only "guidelines." (Existing River Market design rules prohibit a building of this height. After first seeking variances before the Board of Adjustment the developers have decided to seek a planned development waiver from the politically malleable Planning Commission that would cover multiple waivers.)
Knight's remark prompted Townson to call the comments "unseemly," according to one trustee, after which Bradbury, clearly agitated, said that he and Knight were invited guests to a public forum, and inquired whether they should leave. After Townson asked for time to respond, the board chairman, Mark Wilson, refused, and went so far as to suggest that Townson and Stephens, Inc. representatives actually should leave until he was reminded that the meeting was indeed open to the public.
After leaving the meeting, Bradbury and Townson had a heated conversation in the foyer outside the board room, with Bradbury telling Townson that his comments had made "an everlasting opponent for everything you try to do here." Townson then stormed off to the elevators.
We'll have video from the meeting up soon.