From postponed to terminated, the downtown Majestic Amp is not happening
The City of Hot Springs received a letter Tuesday terminating the Real Estate Contract between the City of Hot Springs and The Majestic Entertainment Pavilion, LLC., a project promising an amphitheater to sit at the previous site of the Majestic Hotel, no later than 2023. The termination comes after a requested extended due diligence period, which the city granted earlier this year. Check it out, here. According to the letter from project leader Rick Wilson, the number one reason supporting the decision to terminate the contract was traffic issues — an issue that has been voiced by the public since the beginning.
"We have continued to receive comments from local citizens and prospective patrons about traffic and security issues at the site," Wilson said in the letter. "As we promised from day one in order to make this project successful, we would need to address these legitimate concerns.
"At a minimum, that would entail the re-design and accompanying construction for the trisection of Park, Whittington, and Central Avenues. This trisection will require the involvement and approval of the Arkansas Highway Department and City of Hot Springs.
"Our traffic engineering consultants believe the review and re-design process would take from one (1) year to two (2) years to complete. That would mean the start of construction for the facility would suffer an intolerable delay."
Wilson goes on to say venue architects believe the ideal capacity for the Majestic site is 2,000, not the initially stated 5,000.
"In order to create a unique venue for the city and the region, both in capacity and amenities, our operating partner [Walton Arts Center) would prefer to have a capacity of 5,000 plus," he said.
Another challenge faced is the "current status of our economy, which has made the ability to obtain reliable, fixed bids for construction project three (3) years out all but impossible," Wilson said,
"Supply chain issues and the unpredictability of the economic perils caused by continued inflation have eliminated our ability to budget costs for a construction project of this magnitude, especially for a development period of two (2) to three (3) years."
Wilson states that while they want to bring a unique outdoor entertainment center to Hot Springs, with these issues they do not believe it is currently feasible at this site.
"Our development team, the Wilson Companies and the Walton Arts Center, are in the process of reviewing properties and will continue to preview locations for the remainder of this year for the purpose of finding a site suitable to accommodate a minimum capacity of 5,000," Wilson said.
"The process going forward will likely require the involvement and leadership of city officials which we look forward to, such that this magnificent venue can be realized which Hot Springs deserves."
City Manager Bill Burrough weighed in on the termination, saying he's not disappointed that it won't happen at the Majestic site.
"Mr. Wilson stated when he met with us and requested the extension that he had a considerable amount of due diligence to continue, and unfortunately that site just didn't pan out for the ... size of the amphitheater that he wanted to build," Burrough said.
As some who looks for the "silver lining in anything," he said he finds that in the fact other locations are being considered by Wilson and the Walton Arts Foundation for an amphitheater elsewhere in the city.
"We're very encouraged to hear that and fully support his endeavors," Burrough said.
However, he said Wilson has not alluded as to other locations they are considering. The Post reached out to Wilson on the matter, but did not hear back by the time of publication. The article will be updated accordingly.
When asked about the resorts Grand Point Investment Group Managing Member Matt Deuschle and recent buyer of the Medical Arts Building Parth Patel proposed to the city in 2019 prior to Wilson's amphitheater proposal, Burrough said, "That is still a very important piece of property — it's still a valuable piece of property —it's located at the end of one of the most iconic streets in North America, so I believe the right project will come."
From the action taken thus far, it can be determined the "right project" determined by the city for the site won't be a resort or amphitheater. With that, Burrough said his current recommendation to the Board of Directors is to "press pause." In the meantime, the lot that once held The Majestic Hotel, a state icon prior to its burning in 2014, will remain empty.
"I don't think we have to be in a hurry," Burrough said. "It's still a green space, it's still something that we need to see come in that will bring people downtown and bring additional amenities for our visitors and those that live here, so I'm still excited about the property and hope that something comes in the future that we can all be proud of."