by Max Brantley
I'm in receipt of more details about an alternate proposal for the former Easter Seals training center property at the east end of Lee Avenue across a ravine from the owner of the land underneath the building, the Arkansas School for the Blind.
Doug Martin, a senior managing director at Stephens Inc., and his wife, Melanie Masino, who live nearby on Hill Road, have proposed to buy the property for $480,000 for eventual construction of a single-family home. The purchase price would be split evenly between Easter Seals and the state. Martin would pay, within limits, to remove the existing building, a process that likely will be complicated by the presence of asbestos. Most of the 10-acre tract would be in a conservation easement, guaranteeing that it would not be developed. A level portion of about two acres would be developed for the home, but a buffer zone of green space would separate the home from the end of Lee Avenue, which has homes on either side.
This competes with an existing offer by businessman John Chandler, also a Hillcrest resident, to buy the building for use for offices of his clothing business. Chandler proposes to pay Easter Seals $240,000 to assume its lease on the property from the state school. Neighbors have raised questions about a continuing commercial use of the property. Several have also contended that Easter Seals has broken its lease by moving out of the building and ending rehablitation services there for students.
Martin has sent his proposal to the Board of Trustees for the Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf, which controls the property; the Hillcrest Residents Association; Easter Seals, and various neighbors. Meetings on the subject are coming soon.
NOTE CORRECTION: My original post erroneously said removal of the old building would be paid from sale proceeds. The Martins would pay that, within limits, in addition to purchasing the property.