It had been known for years as the Argenta Branch of the William F. Laman Library, a small two-story building at 506 Main St. in North Little Rock.
But its future is changing.
On Monday, the North Little Rock City Council voted against a proposed resolution to approve a lease agreement with the Argenta Arts Foundation for the building’s first floor to be used during a nine-month period starting April 1 at a rental rate of $1,000 per month. Aldermen Charlie Hight and Linda Robinson voted in favor of the proposed lease, with everyone else being opposed. Alderman Maurice Taylor was absent.
The foundation would have leased the first floor of the building and would have been a temporary location for the Argenta Downtown Council and Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
The non profit wanted to lease the former library branch temporarily to keep a city business in the Argenta District. The Foundation wanted to allow the company to use its building at 705 Main St.
Todd Larson, North Little Rock’s economic development director, said in a letter to Mayor Joe Smith that the branch is needed to help retain the presence of the SEAL Corporation in Argenta.
"This can be accomplished by temporarily relocating the Argenta Downtown Council and the Innovation Hub to the empty space formerly occupied by the downtown branch of the Laman Library," said Larson. "When the renovation of the permanent home of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is completed, space will be available for both the Arkansas Downtown Council and the Innovation Hub."
Larson said the growth of the SEAL Corp. has necessitated its move to larger accommodations.
SEAL Corporation does energy efficient assessments and improvements for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. SEAL started with two employees and has grown to 16, according to Larson.
"The SEAL Corporation very much wants to remain and continue to expand in the Argenta Arts District," Larson said. "The space that the Argenta Downtown Council and the Innovation Hub presently occupy is well suited for SEAL Corporation expansion. In order to accommodate this job expansion and retain this company in North Little Rock, the Argenta Downtown Council and Hub need to relocate."
Donna Hardcastle, the executive director of the Argenta Arts Foundation and the Argenta Downtown Council, said a possibility for the two non-profits would be to eventually move to the site of Art Connection, located at the corner of Broadway and Poplar streets.
Nathan Hamilton, North Little Rock’s Director of Communications for City Services, said the library branch vacated the first floor earlier this year because it is relocating at the site of the former Argenta post office at 420 Main St.
During the council meeting, several aldermen expressed the desire to allow the city’s History Commission to occupy the entire building.
Hamilton said nothing has been decided yet what to do with the first floor of the former library branch following the council’s vote.