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The Insider Oct. 20

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Main event

Previously announced plans for Main Street that included a new home for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre between Second and Third streets and a dinner theater at the old Center Theater — all on land owned by the Stephens financial empire — have changed.

Now the stretch of Main Street between Fourth Street and Capitol Avenue will be transformed into a “campus” for the Rep, according to Sharon Priest, the Downtown Partnership executive director.

All of the buildings on the west side of the block except the Kempner Building will be razed to build a new primary theater and administration offices for the Rep, now at Sixth and Main. The Kempner Building will be renovated and transformed into apartments for visiting actors. Across the street, the Center Theater will become a rehearsal space and second stage for performances.

The plan is contingent on a $15 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation (whose assets derive from the Stephens family’s purchase of the Donrey Media empire). Priest says a decision is expected by the end of the year. As for Stephens’ plans for other Main Street holdings — from Markham to Fourth Street — Priest says they are “not sharing.”



Down the line

Some indication that the Stephens group might make other moves along Main Street is the coming resolution of the Iriana’s Pizza saga. Months ago, Stephens moved all tenants save Iriana’s out of the office building on the west side of Main between Second and Markham. Now, Iriana’s has been given until April to vacate 103 W. Markham. It’s been looking at space immediately below the Times office in the Heritage West building at Markham and Scott.

Stephens’ plans? We couldn’t get a callback by press time. But the building is across an alley from the Stephens-owned Capital Hotel, currently undergoing renovation. Pizza shop speculation has been that the office building will be torn down for expansion of the Capital Hotel or perhaps a new hotel.



Courting a race

We’ve been unable to wring any elaboration from him, but we can report this succinct and definitive response from state Rep. John Paul Verkamp, a Greenwood lawyer, to our e-mail query about a report that he was considering a race for Arkansas Supreme Court against incumbent Justice Robert Brown.

“I am considering such a candidacy,” said Verkamp’s response in its entirety.

Verkamp is a Republican. Though judges now run as nonpartisans, Brown ran as a Democrat previously. We can’t say what Verkamp might see as issues, since he hasn’t returned our calls.

And speaking of Supreme Court races: We reported earlier that Justice Donald Corbin might not seek re-election in 2006 because of health considerations. Corbin says he’s recuperated, feels great and plans to seek re-election. That means Circuit Judge Mike Mashburn of Fayetteville, who would have made the race had Corbin retired, will be staying put.



VIBs only

How about this? A party is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Trapnall Hall to honor Sen. Jack Critcher of Batesville, the Senate president pro tem-elect.

What’s surprising is that, according to our source, only 18 senators are invited. All are members of The Brotherhood, the rump group that led the drive to put pork spending ahead of education.

Critcher confirms the party, but referred questions to Sen. Terry Smith of Hot Springs, the party organizer. Smith reportedly hit up lobbyists, as is customary, to pay for the bash. The news is that several lobbyists refused to buy the swill for a party to which only some members of the Senate were invited.



Who’s voting?

Garland County Clerk Judy Hughes confirms that she’s had discussions with Prosecuting Attorney Steve Oliver about apparent irregularities in voter registration for the Nov. 8 election on allowing electronic gaming (video poker) at Oaklawn Park race track. What sort of irregularities? “That I want you to discuss with the prosecutor.” Oliver had not returned our call by press time. The election figures to be hotly contested.


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