Little Rock City Director Stacy Hurst told the Arkansas Times that Simon Properties showed city officials preliminary sketches of three different scenarios for replacing University Mall in Midtown.
All three possibilities involve eliminating the mall structure entirely, and all include some combination of retail and residential space and medical offices. But the plans are in limbo pending the resolution of a lawsuit filed against Simon by the University Mall property owners, who accuse Simon of mismanaging the mall.
Hurst joined Mayor Jim Dailey and City Manager Bruce Moore in an Aug. 14 meeting with Simon executives at the company’s Indianapolis offices.
The Little Rock delegation also asked what happened to the $25,000 that Simon committed to help pay for a Midtown development study several years ago.
“They absolutely said yes, we will send it to you,” Hurst said. “They said they would remit it immediately.”
Hurst added that the city government is getting involved because University Mall is “an important property.”
“We feel we need to be more pro-active in what happens there,” Hurst said.
New sewer stink
Although the Little Rock Planning Commission has approved a permit for the construction of a new sewage treatment plant near Pinnacle Mountain, controversy over the plant continues. Gene Pfeiffer, who sold the property for the plant to the city Wastewater Utility, is appealing the Planning Commission’s decision to the city Board of Directors, and a former employee of the utility says that it’s not following through on an implied promise to build a “state of the art” plant, using a new “membrane” technology. Reggie Corbitt, chief executive officer of the utility, says that the new plant will be state of the art. Although it will use the same treatment method as the utility’s existing plants, the new plant will have features those plants don’t, such as odor control and better noise control, he said.
Mike Fuller, former director of capital improvements for the utility, said that he had publicly advocated the membrane plant and resigned from the utility in March after it became apparent that the utility would not build such a plant. He agreed that the utility didn’t say directly that it would build a membrane plant, but said it had intimated that the new plant would be state of the art. Corbitt said the issue might be how one interprets “state of the art.” The Random House dictionary says the phrase means “the latest and most sophisticated or advanced stage of a technology, art or science.” Attempts to reach Pfeiffer to ask why he’s appealing the Planning Commission decision were unsuccessful. He still owns property surrounding the site of the proposed plant, and plans to develop it, according to Fuller. A public hearing on the sewage plant is expected to be held Oct. 3.
Union carpenters sore
The executive secretary/treasurer of the Arkansas Regional Council of Carpenters is upset because, he says, not a single union carpenter is employed at the new Dickey-Stephens baseball stadium under construction in North Little Rock. For that matter, no union member from any craft is working on the ballpark, he said. “We [carpenters] worked hard to get the tax passed for the ballpark,” Dennis Donahou said. “Not just because we hoped to get jobs, but because we thought it was good for the city. But all the carpenter jobs are going to out-of-state workers.” He said he took pictures at the site one day and found 17 out-of-state license plates. Many of these out-of-state workers are Hispanic, he said.
Bob East is chief executive officer of East-Harding, construction manager for the project along with Hensel Phelps Construction Co., a national firm. Donahou said that Hensel Phelps was one of the companies that wouldn’t hire union carpenters. East said Hensel Phelps brought some workers with them from Texas. He can’t compel non-union contractors to hire union labor, he said, and the real problem at the ballpark is that no union contractors bid on the job, for various reasons. (A union contractor enters a long-term agreement to use union labor on all his jobs. In Arkansas, non-union contractors far outnumber union contractors.) But non-union contractors can hire union workers if they choose, and it would cost no more to use union labor on the ballpark, Donahou said, because the ballpark is a public project, covered by “prevailing wage” laws. That means all workers, union and non-union, must be paid the prevailing wage in the area for their particular craft. East said it was “absolutely not true” that most of the workers at the ballpark are from out of state.