LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Little Rock is making moves to both widen its police presence and bring back a vacant, boarded-up building that thousands of cars pass every day.
The brick building on the north side of Highway 10, west of 430, was originally built to be the Josephine Pankey Education Center. It's sat vacant for at last a decade after funding dried up for operations, but now the wheels are turning for a second chance at life for the building, thanks to a new partnership.
Despite the boarded-up windows and graffiti, Belver Nelson saw great promise for what was once built to be a community center but never opened.
"I am so past that," Nelson said. "I'm so happy to see things beginning to move, and we appreciate and are thankful to the city for partnering with us."
Nelson is with the Pankey Community Improvement Association, which owns the property. They're working with city hall to lease a police substation for part of the building. The plans call for filling the rest of the space with a community center.
"I'm sure it's a good thing to have them around," Nelson said.
"It's a building that's sat vacant for a long time, and it's now going to have an active use, which I think will be very helpful," Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said.
Mayor Mark Stodola and city directors discussed the project this week and plan to officially vote next week to move things forward. All the traffic moving forward outside the building and nearby development is driving the need for the police substation.
Sgt. Cassandra Davis said it will also keep officers closer to their beat.
"Our officers won't have to come all the back to Kanis Road (substation) to refuel, so they will be able to stay out there in that area for patrol, all they will have to do is go over to the new building," Sgt. Davis said.
The substation will offer more convenience and protection for residents like Nelson, who is even more excited about bringing this building back to its original purpose.
"I can just see all the people enjoying this great building," Nelson said. "I'm looking to the future. Yes, I'm looking to the future."
Sgt. Davis said they're shooting to have the place open by mid-to-late next year. She said that the income from the city leasing space in the building will let the community association finance the community center.
The late educator Josephine Pankey donated this land to the neighborhood years ago. Nelson said she's a woman who meant a lot to her neighbors.