HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) – Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway recently met with about 40 downtown business owners to discuss the fate of the courthouse when the county moves offices to a new building.
Boone County purchased the First Presbyterian Church in February. The church is located along North Arbor Drive. The new location will take the county offices and courthouse of the square (approximately 2 miles) for the first time since 1909.
While the move will still take several months to complete, county officials and business owners are not hesitating to discuss the courthouse’s future.
“It’s going to continue to be a county building because of its historical significance,” said Judge Hathaway. “It’s important to me to see that these monuments and the courthouse stay as-is. The building itself, I would like to see some law offices or something come in that would still draw people downtown.”
Several ideas have been thrown around, including museums, law offices, apartments, and even restaurants. Most business owners’ main concern is using the building for something that will draw traffic downtown.
“The traffic that the court brings to the square it’s a lot for a restaurant,” said Joy Kuykendall, owner of Town House Cafe. “I’m just afraid with the courthouse, all that stuff moving uptown, people will be less likely to invest.”
Kuykendall says she wouldn’t be opposed to a competing restaurant in the courthouse because it would benefit all businesses on the square.
“This is the people’s building. We can’t destroy it. We can’t sell it. I mean, we have war memorials of people that served Boone County,” said Mark Foresee of Foresee General Insurance. “Upfront thing we need to do is look at the ADA compliance and see how that’s going to affect what we can do because we’re grandfathered in at this point.”
Other than what the county is willing to do, business owners’ most prominent question is what they can do. Are there limitations with the historical preservation and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) codes that the building is subject to?
“I love that the judge brought us in,” said Kuykendall. “It’s just really crucial what they decided. I feel like it’s going to make, I really feel like it’s going to make or break the square.”
Judge Hathaway says the decision is not his alone to make, and he will continue to encourage community input on the courthouse’s future. The county is hopeful of making progress when it meets with business owners again next month, on a date still to be determined.
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