The former Easter Seals training center at the east end of Lee Avenue has long been a festering sore for the surrounding residential neighborhood in Hillcrest and for Easter Seals, which has tried repeatedly to unlock some value from the abandoned building and land lease since moving to new quarters in western Little Rock years ago. Neighbors have always thrown up a roadblock of objections.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the Board of the Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf has an opportunity to lance the boil.
It will consider two proposals for the almost 10-acre tract on which the building sits. Little Rock businessman John Chandler has offered $240,000 to Easter Seals for the building and to take over its $1-a-year 50-year lease with the School for Blind for the property, which sits across a wooded ravine from the school. Chandler wants to use the building for offices, including his own small clothing company. Neighbors oppose commercial use of the building.
A competing offer has arisen from Doug Martin, a Stephens Inc. executive who lives nearby on Hill road, who's proposed to pay $480,000, split equally between the school and Easter Seals, to buy the land and building outright. He'd spend up to $500,000 to remove the building and put eight acres of the property into a permanent conservation easement, meaning it could never be developed. He'd build a single-family home on the remaining property.
The Hillcrest Residents Association has endorsed Martin's proposal. Some would favor converting the space to green space, but the state has never shown an inclination to do that. Nor does it have the money to clear the property.