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Work at 615 S. Main St. in Little Rock is moving along, but not without headaches

Renovating 615 S. Main St. in Little Rock has not come without its challenges.

Moses Tucker Real Estate President Chris Moses candidly acknowledges that starting from the ground up would have been much easier than rehabbing the two-story, 14,000-square-foot building.

"Just tearing it down and starting from scratch would've been more cost effective," Moses said during a recent tour of the property. "But you'd lose one of the coolest buildings in the city. Just the facade alone is insane."

More on that facade in a bit.

Moses said the building, which will house eight loft apartments and retail space, has all of its plumbing and electrical installed. Duct work and sheet rock installation are ongoing.

Once crews got into the building they were met with a need for making it more resistant to earthquakes. They found other structural deficiencies that had to be shored up, a common theme for developers working on adaptive reuse.

Pulling off a decades-old facade tore through the limestone that told citizens the building was once home to the Arkansas Democrat newspaper. Restoring that limestone -- mandatory as part of the project meeting requirements for historic tax credits -- has been the biggest challenge of all, Moses said.

"Hardest. Thing. In. The. World," Moses said, reaching out a loft apartment window and patting the limestone in rhythm with his words.

Finding a retail tenant hasn't been a breeze, either.

At one time there was talk of a winery operation. Now a restaurant.

Moses declined to get into specifics on the shift in direction.

Margie Raimondo, who operates a winery in Mountain Home and had plans for the downtown Little Rock property after a River Market location did not materialize, did not respond to a request for comment. She still lists 615 Main on her website as the location of a winery coming in "September 2016."

Moses said his company is in negotiations with a potential restaurant owner to fill the downstairs space. Once a lease is signed, finishing out the space would take about 90 days.

Loft apartments are being finished on both floors. Several of the units have 25-foot ceilings and none of them will be alike in size, layout or view. Sizes range from 800 to 1,500 square feet and rent will begin in the neighborhood of $800.

A sign outside the property says it is slated to open in summer 2016. Moses notes the first resident is scheduled for a mid-September move-in. As long as there is occupancy by Sept. 22, officially the first day of fall, then they'll make it.

The project is expected to costs about $2.2 million.

Click here to read more from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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