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Historic district approves downtown modifications

By Tia Lyons
This article was published February 11, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

The El Dorado Historic District Commission has signed off on modifications to the design plans for a downtown remodeling project.

In December, commissioners approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the conversion of the commercial building at 313 E. Main into a single-family residential unit.

Blake Dunn, of CADM Architecture Inc., presented the original COA for Smart Revocable Trust, saying that property owners Dr. Steve and his wife Michelle Smart intend to use the building as a “potential downsizing residence.”

The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, housed the El Dorado News-Times decades ago and most recently served as the El Dorado offices of environmental engineering firm Atoka, Inc.

Dunn previously explained that the building will be gutted and a new fire-rated protection wall will replace the existing party wall between the building and next-door neighbor, Stone and Sawyer PLLC law firm.

Last month, historic district Commissioner Teresa Golliher said another COA may be forthcoming for the addition of a rooftop patio.

On Thursday, Dunn said plans for the patio have been scrapped.

“There was more discussion about the limitations and we found another way to recreate that outdoor space,” he said.

The southern facade, which faces Cedar Street, will be refitted into a space that will be suitable for indoor and outdoor use, he said.

“It can be converted into an outdoor patio and when the door is closed, it can be a sunroom,” Dunn explained. “We believe that it suits the needs of the client better and it’s an improvement over what you approved in December.”

EHDC Chairman Linda Rathbun said the modification would have to be treated as a separate Certificate of Appropriateness request.

COAs are required for most exterior work that is done within the city’s commercial historic district.

Dunn said work has already begun inside the building and he said the project is still on track to be completed by the fall.

Commissioners held a lengthy discussion about another possible COA request: a proposed awning for a business that is slated to move into the space at 108 N. Washington.

Coco’z Cottage was the most recent tenant of the building, which is owned by the Masonic Temple.

Commissioners learned that details regarding the lease for the incoming business have not yet been finalized.

They also learned that the business owner was seeking to hang an awning just above the existing Masonic awning.

The business owner said the Masonic Temple said any signage or awning that is installed for the retail space on the first floor may not touch the existing Masonic awning.

Commissioners were informed that a commercial awning company said a three-inch area just about the Masonic awning could be used to install an awning for the incoming business.

“My reaction is I’m not excited about an awning on an awning, but I can be convinced,” Rathbun said.

Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the historic district commission, said further discussion and explanation with Masonic Temple members may provide some clarity on the issue.

Commissioners pointed to other options for signage that would help draw attention to the business from the street front.

Commissioner Ken Bridges said signage underneath the existing awning “may be the best place to start.”

He also said the EHDC would need to review specifications for the project.

Bridges and Eggleston said the business owner could speak with Main Street El Dorado for guidance and possible financial assistance in the form of Main Street’s mini-grant program.

Eggleston asked commissioners to review a draft for a nomination to place South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field on the National Register for Historic Places.

The EHDC secured a state grant to cover the cost of the work and awarded the bid to Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc.

The EHDC is working with the El Dorado Airport Commission to seek the NRHP designation as part of efforts to restore the post-WWII era facility.

Eggleston said the State Review Board will meet on April 4 in Little Rock.

If approved by the State Review Board, the nomination will then be forwarded to the National Parks Service for consideration to be added to the NRHP.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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