A project to transform two adjacent buildings in downtown Little Rock into a bowling alley, bar and beer hall complex has cleared one approval hurdle and faces a couple more but is moving forward, developer Jamie Moses said last week.
And in further evidence of a project gathering steam, the McNellie’s Group, the Tulsa hospitality group behind the bowling alley-beer hall complex, has signed a lease for one of the buildings and is close to signing the lease for the other, McNellie’s chief operating officer, Jim O’Connor, told Arkansas Business.
The McNellie’s Group plans to open Fassler Hall at 307 E. Capitol Ave. in the former Paragon Printing building and the Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge at 315 E. Capitol Ave. in the former M.M. Eberts American Legion Post. Fassler Hall will be a German-style beer hall and restaurant, and the Dust Bowl will be a retro bowling alley, lounge and bar.
The buildings, across the street from the Rock Region Metro River Cities Travel Center, are in the MacArthur Park Historic District, and the Little Rock Historic District Commission late last year had expressed initial concerns about plans for developing the buildings. After changes were made to the Dust Bowl plans, the commission approved them, but had held off on approving the plans for Fassler Hall in the old Paragon building.
Moses, director of development at Moses Tucker Real Estate, which is developing the buildings, said it now has its approvals from the Historic District Commission but still has to “finalize” a couple of signage issues with the Board of Adjustment.
Moses Tucker owns the American Legion building, envisioned for the Dust Bowl location, and O’Connor said the McNellie’s Group had signed a lease with the developer. Central Arkansas Water owns the Paragon building, and O’Connor said, “We’re working on the final details on the lease” for that building. “We’re close on that one.”
“Essentially the exterior elevations of the building, Fassler, have been signed off and approved by the MacArthur Historic District,” Moses said. AMR Architects of Little Rock is the architect for the project.
Moses expects the Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge, which will have eight lanes, to open in November or December and the beer hall after the first of next year. O’Connor predicted opening sometime this winter.
The two buildings — the planned Dust Bowl Lanes and Fassler Hall — share an alleyway, which O’Connor said will connect the two establishments and serve as a beer garden.
Redevelopment of the two buildings will cost between $1 million and $1.5 million, Moses said, but work hasn’t started yet. “But I think it’s very soon.”
‘A Nice Energy’
“We identified Little Rock because, in terms of size, it felt right, kind of a mid-market city,” O’Connor said. “And we really liked the feeling of downtown Little Rock. It reminded us a lot of Tulsa, in terms of the size, being a river city, pretty centralized downtown, not too spread out.
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