Hillcrest neighbors work to protect historic designation, debate changes to design overlay

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It’s been a popular topic of debate throughout neighborhoods in Little Rock – historic cottages being replaced by mega-homes twice the size of their neighbors. 

The Hillcrest Historic District is one area looking at what can be done to stop the rapid growth, and the debate has now moved to the next steps. Sunday, neighbors met with the Design Overlay District Committee and Hillcrest Residents Association to share their thoughts on possible changes to building restrictions and guidelines, and have any questions answered by neighborhood leaders. 

This subject has been a major debate in the area since 2019 when residents noticed that even with the Design Overlay District (or DOD) in place, large homes were being built on small lots that overshadowed the homes next to them. The Design Overlay District Committee was then created to study the old plan and offer up updates that would make it more difficult to build a “McMansion” in the historic district, with their suggestions now being studied by neighbors. 

Beverly Stang and her faithful pup, Mojo, are just two residents who are sick of seeing the constant constriction. “There’s an intimacy in Hillcrest that can’t be beat anywhere,” Stang said, remembering her decades of living here.

She’s not a fan of the multi-story homes that are being built to replace small bungalows and cottages, a common thread for the past few years. “If your neighbors can’t see the sunlight coming in their windows because you built a three-story [home],” Stang exclaimed, “then why would you do that?”.

This property problem is what led to Sunday’s neighborhood meeting at Allsopp Park and a series of proposed changes to the Design Overlay. Dr. Antoinette Johnson is a historic preservation consultant who has been working with Hillcrest leaders on the proposals. “All it does is look at mass and scale,” she explained, with new updates that limit “floor” size on lots and the use of available space. 

The goal is to stop new mega-mansions from popping up in the largest historic district in Arkansas. As Johnson says, “We see people tearing down the historic fabric of the neighborhood to put new large structures in,” something she’s trying to stop before it gets out of control.

But not everyone is on board. Hillcrest resident Mark Robertson shared a post on Facebook citing his reasons to oppose the changes. In the post, he mentions, “there is no typical home in Hillcrest just like there is no typical neighbor,” and added, neighborhoods evolve over time and the needs change as well.” Others have said that the larger homes add value to the neighborhood in a tight housing market. 

There are plans for two more neighborhood meetings where questions will be answered, the next of which will be virtual on May 25th. If neighbors OK the proposal, it will then head to the city planning commission, and then the city board of directors. 

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