The City of Hot Springs, on Thursday, July 2, will consider approving purchase of the site of the historic Majestic Hotel, part of which was destroyed by fire February 27-28, 2014.
“The property, which is the entryway to Hot Springs from the north and which serves as the gateway to the city’s historic downtown district, is key to ongoing plans for the redevelopment of the downtown area,” said David Watkins, Hot Springs’ city manager. “Acquisition of this property presents an enormous array of great opportunities on several fronts.”
The rubble of the destroyed portion of the hotel has remained since the night of the fire. Ongoing talks with owner Gary Hassenflu of Kansas City had proven unsuccessful in getting the rubble cleared and remediating the unsafe condition of the remaining portion of the buildings. The Hot Springs Board of Directors condemned the property in March of this year.
The city will move immediately to clean up the fire debris and demolish the rest of the condemned complex, Watkins said.
“Numerous exciting opportunities for redevelopment of the Majestic property have been advanced in the 18 months after the fire,” Watkins said. “Creation of a city park, a possible performing arts center, a public amphitheater and a thermal pool complex are just a few of the ideas that have been voiced.
“In addition to these possibilities, the acquisition of the property also gives us the chance to meet the city’s obligation to provide a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, which is located across Cedar Street and is one of the true treasures of our community.
“The Majestic property is also strategically situated to enhance the redevelopment of Park and Whittington Avenues. The acquisition and potential razing of the entire site improves the marketability of the Velda Rose Hotel and other properties in the immediate area. The Park Avenue corridor is undergoing a resurgence and is home to some of Hot Springs’ most popular restaurants.”
Watkins said the acquisition eliminates the prospect of a long and costly legal effort to utilize eminent domain authority to acquire the property.
He said there have been solid suggestions that there are many possible sources of grants and other financial aid in developing the site for public use.
“The Majestic property is the entryway to world-famous Bathhouse Row and creates the first impression of visitors entering downtown via Park Avenue from the north,” Watkins said. “I have seen properties change hands from one developer to one another, with no plan of action or hope for improvement. The city’s acquisition of this property opens up a number of positive options for redevelopment that are key to the progress of downtown."