Plan to tear down Gay Oil building, add car wash

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A well-known, historic Little Rock building could be torn down and turned into a car wash.

The city received plans from a developer trying to buy the former Gay Oil headquarters on Third and Broadway Streets. The proposal by Zene Enterprises, LLC includes renderings for a Bubble King car wash with a second story for office space.

The century old building is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s not in a protected historical area in the city. That means the owner is not required to preserve it.

“It would be devastating to the city of Little Rock to lose this building,” said Jeremiah Russell, a developer at LivWell Development.

Russell passes the Gay Oil building every day on his way to work, so when he found out about the plan to raze the property, he started looking for an alternative. Russell is working on his own plan to redevelop the building, in case the sale falls through. His plan is to renovate and turn it into an office space, with opportunities for retail, restaurants, and possibly a microbrewery.

“It’s in excellent shape. The masonry is all solid, the building itself just needs new life to be put into it,” Russell said. “It’s ready to be rehabbed.”

The Quapaw Quarter Association (QQA), which works to preserve historic properties across the city, started a petition to save the building. By Friday night the petition had more than 2,000 signatures.

“To even consider it for demolition in mind is frankly irresponsible,” said QQA Executive Director Patricia Blick. “We do not want to see any historic resources lost that can be saved, repurposed, and can be rehabilitated.”

Even if the sale goes through next week, Blick says they’re planning to give the petition to the Mayor’s office, since the goal is to have a say in what happens next.

“It’s totally out of character for this area,” she said. “We hope that the public outcry against demolition will at least resound with them.”

It’s a sentiment Russell agrees with, calling it worth the risk considering demo can’t be undone.

“It’s destroying a piece of our historical fabric that we will never get back,” he said.

KARK 4 News reached out to Zene Enterprises, LLC, but didn’t hear back.

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