Tropical Smoothie Café will be the first retail tenant in the downtown YMCA building, according to Sharon Priest, director of Downtown Little Rock Partnership. The sandwich and smoothie franchise has an expected March 2012 opening date.
Built in 1928, the Spanish Revival building at the corner of West 6th and South Broadway functioned as a gym and, at one time, as a sparse hotel. But according to a New York Times article, in 1987 only three residents remained, paying a rent of $45 a week. In 1996, the branch closed entirely.
The California-based Tower Investments purchased the building in 2005, with plans to redevelop it as retail space. But in 2010, the building was unoccupied and up for sale. Little Rock resident Shellie Barnett purchased the building in August 2010, rescuing it from another buyer who wanted to raze it for a parking lot. Perhaps Tropical Smoothie is the first of many retailers who will embrace the historic building. According to Priest, the business’s commitment “is another affirmation that things are happening downtown.”