I mentioned last week an exploration by Costco, the upscale and successful warehouse store chain, of expanding into Arkansas with a location in Little Rock, perhaps a site at the northwest corner of Highway 10 (Cantrell Road) and Interstate 430.
As I mentioned earlier, the site targets three residential properties of some 60 acres on River Mountain Road, a small thoroughfare that leads to a county park on the Little Maumelle River and accesses busy Cantrell by means of a brief traffic light.
I spoke today with the owner of one of those three homes, retired public relations and advertising man Hugh Pollard. He does not want to leave his home, which sits on six forested acres. Bonnie Harvey and Harry Rosenblum own the other two properties, with the Harvey holding accounting for about half the acreage.
Pollard has spoken with a Costco representative. The firm sees a location situated between higher income neighborhoods with freeway frontage as a good location. Pollard says he thinks highly of Costco and would like to see them come to Little Rock, but not at the expense of his residential neighborhood. He said opposition to the idea was growing from other property owners in the vicinity. A church, for example, lies immediately to the west of the homes and it could be expected to object to a new outlet for alcohol sales nearby if Costco included them in its product mix. He said the project would require a reworking of traffic signals on Cantrell and likely worsen traffic there; it would have a negative impact on the county park, which has limited parking; and it would require clearance and leveling for a parking lot big enough for more than 700 cars, plus some likely hillside excavation that would end what now constitutes a “green entry” to Little Rock for motorists entering the city via the I-430 bridge over the Arkansas River.
No formal proposal is on the table. Costco, which has declined to talk about its interest in Little Rock, has told Pollard that it would not move ahead with the River Mountain Road site if he objected. He recently completed a landscaping and home renovation project and is happy with his home, he said. The company perhaps could proceed without his property (and the thoughts of the other two River Mountain property owners aren’t yet known). But would the Little Rock Board of Directors rezone residential property for commercial development where neighbors weren’t on board? It’s hard to imagine. But the promise of a destination store like Costco for a city that has seen its retail base bled by suburban growth will undoubtedly have appeal. Developers have been known to be influential with the Little Rock City Board.