Plans Emerge For Dickson Street Hotel

Traffic flows through the intersection of West Avenue and West Dickson Street Friday in Fayetteville. Plans are in the works to construct a six-story boutique hotel west of the Walton Arts Center in the northeast corner of the paid parking lot, in the area seen here in the middle of the above photograph.
Traffic flows through the intersection of West Avenue and West Dickson Street Friday in Fayetteville. Plans are in the works to construct a six-story boutique hotel west of the Walton Arts Center in the northeast corner of the paid parking lot, in the area seen here in the middle of the above photograph.

— Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s administration is considering a plan for a Dickson Street hotel on part of the main Walton Arts Center parking lot.

Jordan said he and city staff members have been in talks for weeks with John Davidson, a representative of Monroe Capital, about plans for a boutique hotel that could be up to six stories tall and include as many as 75 rooms.

Davidson, a Fayetteville resident, said negotiations with the city have not been finalized.

“We’re still working through the details,” he said Friday.

Before a hotel is built, the City Council must approve allowing developers to lease city-owned property for the project. Aldermen are scheduled to address that issue at an agenda session Tuesday and again at a regular meeting Aug. 2.

Under terms of a proposed lease, hotel developers would build on land equivalent to 40 parking spaces in the northeast corner of the parking lot at Dickson Street and West Avenue. The lot now has 293 spaces.

Eighteen additional parking spaces would be occupied during construction.

Jordan said he supports the terms of the agreement, but Davidson has yet to sign off.

Monthly payments to the city for leasing the land would be based on the maximum revenue possible from the 40 parking spaces that would be lost.

At $5 per day, that would be a monthly lease payment of $6,000, said Paul Becker, city finance director.

That money would provide a stable revenue source to finance a parking deck downtown, Becker said. The location for a parking deck has not been determined.

According to business filings with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office, Monroe Capital dissolved in 2007 and has not reincorporated. Davidson said he represents a group of local investors with the financial wherewithal to make the project a reality.

Davidson declined to name investors, but said they are willing to put up a performance bond for the project to ensure its completion.

“We’re only going to do this if everybody’s excited about it,” he said.

Davidson said he has had nothing but positive responses from city officials, Walton Arts Center staff, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and Dickson Street merchants.

“I just think there’s a demand there that’s not being met,” he said.

Jordan and Steve Clark, chamber president and chief executive officer, said downtown suffers from a shortage of hotel rooms.

“One of the things I’ve heard since I’ve been in office is we need a good hotel, particularly in the entertainment district,” Jordan said.

Clark said the hotel would appeal to families of University of Arkansas students, Razorback fans, festivalgoers and business travelers.

Jodi Beznoska, vice president for communications at the Walton Arts Center, said the hotel would appeal to performers as well as patrons who attend shows.

She said it’s too soon to say how the center’s plans for a 600-seat theater would be affected by a new hotel.

Previous proposals for hotels in the Dickson Street area have been unsuccessful, including a 2008 plan by Signet Enterprises for 200,000 square feet of building space with a hotel, shops and two parking decks of more than 1,000 spaces.

In 2006, plans for the nine-story Divinity Hotel and Condos between Block and Church avenues failed to get off the ground.

In Bentonville, developers are designing a 130-room, five-story hotel with a fine-arts theme at the northeast corner of the downtown square. The hotel is slated to be called the 21c Museum.

Jordan’s chief of staff, Don Marr, said that unlike previous plans in Fayetteville, Davidson’s proposal is more modest in terms of building size. Also, the investors appear to be financially able to make the project a reality, he said.

Jordan said hotel construction would create a short-term loss of parking spaces. However, a city-owned parking deck would alleviate those concerns, he said.

“In the short-term, it’s going to be an issue,” Jordan said, “but in the long-term, it’s going to be of great value to us.”

Kim Souza contributed to this report.