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Facelift coming for iconic Hot Springs building | News

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Facelift coming for iconic Hot Springs building

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) -- The skinny white brick building at Central Avenue and Bridge Street is a familiar sight to millions of Hot Springs visitors, but for 40 years, the old First Federal building on the route of the world's shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade has been gradually decaying.

"It was actually the city's first skyscraper," said Cole McCaskill, the Downtown Development Director for the Hot Springs Metro Partnership. "Rumor has it the original contractor went bankrupt mainly because he spared no expense."

Being solidly built using now impossible to find Tiffany brick may be why this seven-story structure doesn't look more rundown, despite being vacant since 1978 when First Federal Mutual and later Citizens Bank cleared out.

Now, owner Jason Taylor has big plans for the landmark.

"We like to travel my wife and I and we go to iconic towns and streets," said Taylor, a native of Malvern and Hot Springs resident since 1997. "You know Broadway in Nashville and sixth street in Austin. And this could be the same thing."

The new apartments will have charm and the upper floors get great views of the old naval hospital and Arlington Hotel to the north. But there was more than location, location, location at play for Taylor.

"One, this is the only building downtown that's built like a skyscraper which means there's no interior load-bearing walls," he said. It means he can build to suit and offers flexible floor plans. "And the other reason is it's the gateway to downtown."

The redevelopment is part of a larger plan literally touched off by the Majestic Hotel fire in 2014.

"We owe the Majestic a lot of the credit for all the momentum that we're seeing downtown," says McCaskill who pointed to renovations at the Thompson Building and the former Austin Hotel as projects that sprang from the efforts to clean up the mess the fire left behind.

The city cleared Taylor's permits for all the floors on Monday, clearing the way to welcome tenants by early spring.

The owner of the penthouse with the high ceilings and best views will probably have to pony up about $1 million to get that prime spot.