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Gazette Building goes chic

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J. Stewart Development has formally secured the right to buy the original Arkansas Gazette building in downtown Little Rock.

If the deal goes through, the old newspaper offices at Third and Louisiana will be transformed into luxurious accommodations, according to Justin Stewart, the California native who is conceiving the project. He plans “high-end” penthouses, loft apartments, a restaurant and wine bar — even a swimming pool on the roof.

Stewart, who has been living in Little Rock for the last four years, says he has until Nov. 15 to finalize the purchase.

Pulaski Bank for sale?

First Security Bancorp came close to buying Pulaski Bank, but the deal fell through last week when the two entities could not agree on a price.

Pulaski Bank is determined to sell, we hear, and three or four big bidders are seriously considering buying the privately-held Little Rock institution.

Mt. Magazine in flux

More major changes are playing out at Mount Magazine State Park, where a $33 million lodge opened in May with less than ideal results.

Park Superintendent David Pflugrad is superintendent no more. Greg Butts, Arkansas State Parks director, said Pflugrad requested a transfer to a ranger position at Crowley’s Ridge State Park. Pflugrad had been superintendent at Crowley’s Ridge before taking the Mount Magazine position in 1998, so this is a reduction in rank and pay, but Butts said it’s at Pflugrad’s request, not because of the problems with the lodge.

“It’s related to where he is with his professional career and his family,” Butts said. “It’s certainly not something we discuss with the public.” Pflugrad’s wife is from the Crowley’s Ridge area, he said.

For now, Assistant Superintendent Donna Spaght is filling the top job at Mount Magazine, Butts said. The deadline to apply to fill the position permanently is Friday.

Earlier this summer, the chef, kitchen staff, dining room manager, assistant dining room manager, head of housekeeping and front desk personnel quit, complaining that the lodge was understaffed and they were overworked.

But reports are now that there’s no shortage of business at the lodge. Veteran Little Rock chef Billy Ginocchio (La Scala, Markham 225, StageLeft, Peachtree Catering) has been hired to head the kitchen, and a new menu is in the planning stages. Ann Crabtree has been hired as the food and beverage manager.

“We’re excited about their contributions,” Butts said. “We’re looking forward to finishing up a great year.”

High noon

An eagle-eyed web surfer alerted us to a forthcoming change in Little Rock’s mid-day radio scene, via an ad posted at the media employment site All Access. Talk radio station KARN (102.9 FM) is seeking a noon personality.

“KARN is looking for someone who can talk hard topics when they’re hot and lifestyle when they’re hot,” the ad says. “You MUST be able to do both and know when they are called for on any given day.”

KARN program director Dave Elswick confirms that the ad means current lunchtime talker Kevin Gordon is out as of Tuesday, Aug. 8.

“Kevin Gordon turned in a letter to me [Monday] citing family concerns back in Cincinnati, and he effectively removed himself from the air,” Elswick said. The search for Gordon’s replacement is ongoing.

Here we go again

According to a reliable source, former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth called the Fayetteville Public Library about two weeks ago to get some background information on Hillary Clinton. He told the library director he is writing a book on Hillary, to be published by Little, Brown & Co.

Gerth’s been down this road before. His gullible reliance on Bill Clinton’s Arkansas enemies led to his 1992 reporting about the Whitewater land deal (and you know how that turned out).

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