HOT SPRINGS (KTHV) - There's growing momentum right now in Hot Springs to keep all that rich history along Central Avenue, standing long into the future.
It stems from this recent letter from the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce to City Hall (PDF). In it, the chamber urges the city to re-evaluate building codes and beef up inspection. They are specifically targeting those historic downtown gems, largely vacant on the upper floors.
Downtown Hot Springs offers plenty to see and do from the ground floors. But look up, and in some of the more historic buildings, there's nothing but empty, aging floors.
"There are structures there that if they were to go away, they could not be replaced, so we felt like this was the time, this was the time we really need to step up," David Byerly said.
It's a push from David Byerly, President and CEO of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. The group wants changes, like uniform building codes.
"When we did our research, one of the first things that glared at us was the way that code was being used in downtown Hot Springs," Byerly said.
Right now, there are separate codes for vacant floors and the occupied ground floors. Basically a building owner can open the bottom while closing off the top with no utilities.
"Just total elimination of that has some unintended consequences in other parts of town, so that is a serious discussion that board will be engaging in over the next several weeks," Lance Hundell said.
City Manager Lance Hudnell says along with willing discussion on code changes, the city's already started fire department inspections.
"We're some-what speculative about, well they're in this shape or that shape," Hundnell said.
Hudnell says that inventory will continue going forward, seeing how history's holding up with the ultimate desire for to offer more for tourists up above.
As for the inspections so far, the city manager says they've done three buildings and no big red flags yet.
Another goal ahead is to include building property owners in the discussion, and strike a balance between their needs for reinvestment, public safety and overall preservation.