Aloft: What's up?
The staff of the Little Rock Planning Department will send the Planning Commission its recommendation Thursday, Nov. 6, on whether to grant the rezoning request to allow an Aloft Hotel in the River Market. Director Tony Bozynski said Monday that the staff hadn't made its final decision, though rumors are that they will recommend approval.
Representatives of super-wealthy financier Warren Stephens are fighting the $20 million development because of the competition it would bring to Stephens' ritzy Capital Hotel just blocks away. Will the Commission be able to stand up to pressure from the big money? It would be a shock.
A couple of commissioners have jumped out of the frying pan, quitting their terms a year early: Valerie Dawson Pruitt and Darrin L. Williams. That leaves nine commissioners to decide whether to give Aloft its planned commercial development zoning. Approval requires six votes. Pressure is intense, we understand.
Central Arkansas Library System director Bobby Roberts previously led the opposition to the 7-story hotel as being too tall for the district. He had been open to compromise — and spoke positively of significant design changes — before Stephens and allies from the Peabody Hotel joined his side. Now he's not in a mood to negotiate. Incidentally: Planning commissioners are not supposed to consider competitive issues, such as impact on other businesses, in zoning matters. But it's hard to ignore an 800-pound gorilla named Stephens in a room.
Still more Aloft
Speaking of Aloft hotels, the Starwood Properties brand targets young, hip clientele. Another Aloft is on the drawing boards for Little Rock. A spokesman for Image Properties, owner of a small chain of Texas hotels, confirms the group has plans to build a 138-room Aloft in western Little Rock. Details remain to be ironed out and he'd say no more, but it apparently would be in the vicinity of the growing commercial node at Interstate 430 and Shackleford Road.
Law dean interviewees
Joan Mahoney, Penelope Bryan and Susan Richey will be interviewed for the position of dean of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. The three were chosen for interviews from among nearly 20 applicants. Mahoney is a former dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Bryan is an associate dean at the University of Denver Law School, and Richey is an associate dean at the Franklin Pierce Law School in Concord, N.H. UALR faculty and staff and local lawyers will conduct the interviews.
One of the things we like to keep track of around here is the number of folks keeping track of you. We mean, of course, surveillance cameras — those innocuous eyes-in-the-sky that seem to watch our every move these days. The latest collaborator: the North Little Rock Housing Authority, which recently started shopping for a proposal to upgrade and expand their video surveillance at all North Little Rock public housing sites, which serve almost 1,500 residents.
Jim Redman, executive director of NLR Housing, said that the agency already has cameras at its elderly and disabled housing. Those cameras, he said, are “ancient” — at least 10 to 15 years old — with video resolution so poor that “you can tell it's a person,” but could never make an I.D. In addition to upgrading antiquated cameras and recording systems, Redman said, the plan would also place cameras at family housing sites for the first time. He said it will help give residents peace of mind.
Not so fast
Lime green signs placed in the middle of Kavanaugh Boulevard in the Heights last week inform drivers on the busy street that they must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
That would be a first on Kavanaugh, a notoriously difficult street to cross for those who park on the non-commercial side of the two-lane.
Traffic engineer Bill Henry said the signs were erected at the request of the Heights Neighborhood Association and City Director Stacy Hurst, who lives in the neighborhood. Hurst is known for her traffic-slowing efforts: She got electronic signs installed on a curve on Kavanaugh — one her previous home backed up to — to let drivers know how fast they were driving.