Residential Development Coming To Hot Springs' Historic District

- HOT SPRINGS, AR- The City of Hot Springs is launching a major initiative to bring a residential development to the downtown area. Right after the Majestic Hotel fire in February, city leaders say the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce formed a task force to redevelop downtown. They have their eyes on Exchange Street which runs parallel to Central Avenue, a big tourist spot. However, the city wants permanent residents in that area.

"The key to downtown redevelopment, no matter where you go in the country, is attracting people to live, work and play downtown," says David Watkins, Hot Springs City Manager.

A task force made up of property owners, tenants and customers of the historic district found residential housing would enhance the area.

"I think the fire brought a lot of attention to downtown," says Watkins.

The plan is to use existing buildings off Exchange Street and turn them into condos, apartments and single family homes. Some stores along Central Avenue say this plan could help boost business.

"It could help to benefit, to bring more people in because it will be a residential area," says Sara Bishop, Bathhouse Soapery Manager.

At the same time, Sara Bishop worries it could harm Hot Springs' image.

"It could turn around and turn into more of a business district, rather than a historic district with businesses within it. And then it could snowball and turn into every other major city," says Bishop.

But Watkins believe this is just a part of a recipe in creating a great downtown environment.

"You're always going to have some people against change and you'll have other people who will look at it as a real opportunity," he says.

Watkins says if some of these projects get going now, we could see downtown housing available to folks in a year.

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