HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) -- A Hot Springs hotel announcement and lease-signing ceremony is the latest in a line of renovations and developments in Spa City in the last two years. This one comes with political weight behind it.
Mayor Pat McCabe and his wife Ellen took it upon themselves to put a large piece of a puzzle that may soon be complete when it comes to a downtown revitalization. They added new lines to their resumes, with “innkeepers” now alongside head of the city board and president of Levi Hospital.
“We will have a lot of focus on food service and high-end boutique hotel rooms,” McCabe said at a public open house after signing a lease on Hale Bathhouse.
It's the latest property to take down the vacant sign and start generating income for the National Parks Service that owns it. That made it an event worth celebrating for even national politicians.
“We have billions if not trillions of dollars of assets on federal land across this country that are sitting vacant that are costing taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R) – AR. “What Pat and Ellen are doing is good business for Hot Springs, it’s good business for them, it’s good business for the Parks Service and it’s good business for the taxpayer.”
The signing ceremony for the very small hotel comes a day after the new owner of the neighboring Arlington Hotel and Spa, the state's largest hotel, made a public appeal. Owner Al Rajabi of Sky Capital Group agreed to buy the historic property in July and is disappointed the city is putting pressure to fix several code violations before November. Several rooms reopened last week after city inspectors ordered them closed for electrical violations, but the city says several exterior problems exist and need to be fixed before cold weather potentially leads to pieces falling on the street.
Rajabi expressed disappointment with the tight timeline so soon after closing on the property and said it felt like his efforts aren't welcome. We asked him for comment, but he said he was rushing back to his home base in San Antonio, TX ahead of Hurricane Harvey.
The mayor, now with his own hotel, said the city isn’t singling out the landmark.
“We're waiting and we want to work with them,” Mayor McCabe said. “But then again we have public safety to focus on.”
The mayor and his wife had to get the lease signed by today to meet a deadline. They say it was coincidence that their foray into hotel ownership came so close to the Rajabi’s letter.
“We're a 9-room boutique hotel. We're not really competing with really anybody,” he said.
The McCabe’s are targeting early 2018 for an opening date.