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Downtown Hot Springs Development Hits Milestone

100th new business since Majestic Hotel fire opens

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- The 100th new business in downtown Hot Springs since the Majestic Hotel caught fire in 2014 has officially opened.

Vault is a highly-anticipated new restaurant on Central Avenue that sits in a building previously unoccupied for three decades.

Downtown is the heart of any city and Hot Springs is no exception. For years, however, the health of the Spa City's heart was on the decline.

When the historic but abandoned Majestic burned, the city realized it was time to get its heart beating strong once again.

"It's an event that really mobilized city leaders to focus on downtown for the first time with a real, concerted effort," explained Cole McCaskill, Vice President of Economic Development for the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Since then, McCaskill says downtown development has been its top priority patient and $80 million invested to revamp downtown and boost tourism.

"The growth that we have seen since the Majestic Fire has been really incredible," he said. "Completely unprecedented across Arkansas."

But just a few blocks away from booming downtown, some neighborhoods have sat untouched for decades.

"The tourists come and go," explained Elmer Beard, who lives on the edge of Hot Springs' Gateway community. "We are here to stay.

In the 30+ years he's lived on Henry Street, Beard says the only new thing his street has seen is a gym that moved in two years ago.

"I was so surprised when that business moved in," he said.

Beard feels Hot Springs leaders cater to tourists more than citizens when planning growth, creating a disparity in development. But McCaskill argues the health of downtown helps dictate the health of the whole city.

"There's absolutely a relationship between downtown and the rest of the city," McCaskill said.

Beard is holding on to hope that other communities in Hot Springs may soon have their chance to bloom just like downtown.

"I don't want the heart of Hot Springs to be disconnected," he said.

Because what's the point of a healthy heart, if it has nothing to circulate through?

The Chamber of Commerce says there's hardly any available retail space left in downtown. The next step will be pushing for more residential and office space above those now occupied storefronts.

A ribbon cutting for Vault is planned for Thursday afternoon. Senator John Boozman and Congressman Bruce Westerman are expected to be in attendance, among many local business leaders.

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