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|Recession? Hall's Arco Builders is too busy to notice|
Arco Builders has started several construction-related projects in downtown West Monroe.
Steve Hall, Arco's owner, hopes his company's work will breathe more life into an area of the city that was once considered one of the hottest locales to conduct business and the like in northeastern Louisiana.
One of the biggest projects Arco has underway today is the remodeling of the old oil mill at Pine and Trenton streets.
Arco bought the facility several months ago and plans to convert it into upscale apartments.
Hall's construction firm carried out the same plan with West Monroe's old city hall. Tenants quickly rented those apartments.
Hall said the oil mill project will be similar to the upscale apartments found in bigger cities.
"These are going to be nicer than the ones at city hall," Hall said. "We want to make it something that will be desirable."
"You won't find anything like this in the twin cities," Hall explained. "A lot of the people who come here are professional people from larger cities like Dallas, and they are used to these nice apartments."
The remodeled facility at the old oil mill site will feature 13 apartments. Though construction hasn't been completed, three of the apartments already have lease agreements, Hall said.
The oil mill was built in 1880. Hall said most of the material in the original structure is still in excellent shape, so Arco Builders will reuse a majority of the 140-year-old brick, steel and wood.
"It's just a great historical building and we were able to salvage most of it, and we'll reuse every bit of it," Hall said.
Arco Builders plans to have the 13 apartments completed by the first of the year. Cost for the project is $2.3 million.
Hall, a native of West Monroe, has a passion for restoring older buildings to make them available for society to use today.
Hall remembers the heyday of the oil mill during his youth. He's anxious to see people using the facility once again.
"It's the oldest industrial building in Ouachita Parish," Hall said. "When I was growing up, the oil mill was a major operator. That was the main industry in West Monroe and Ouachita Parish. It was a major employer for many years."
"We'll have pictures there to show everyone what it was like … we just like to restore and keep our heritage," he added.
Arco Builders also is in the process of renovating the old glass lens building located at 315 Wood St. in West Monroe. Kayla's Kitchen, currently located on Cotton Street, will move into that facility once renovation work is completed. The building also will include additional office space, which will be available for rent.
That project, which will cost $315,000, should be completed within several months.
Meanwhile, Hall and Jim Creel, a Monroe developer, plan to develop retail spaces along Commerce Street. The development will be similar to what has been developed along Tower Drive in Monroe.
The Commerce Street project is in the planning stages at this time, so there's no cost estimate or timeframe for completion, Hall said.
Creel and Hall plan to fill the vacant lot beside Creel's condos on Commerce Street with eight or 10 different shops. Retailers will be allowed to lease the retail space or buy certain suites if they want to develop the interiors themselves.
"When we get it all done, that area should be on the map pretty good," Hall said. "We hope more restaurants will come in because there's enough business for everyone. We hope it will become a high traffic area for our city, and come back to life like it was in the 1940s and 1950s.
"We've already got people living there, and that helps. It's getting better every day, and the more people we have living down there, the more merchants we'll need, and one thing will lead to another."
Two other major projects Arco Builders has tackled this year include the construction of a new Ridgecrest nursing home and a new West Monroe Guest House.
The new Ridgecrest facility will cost $7.5 million to build. The current nursing home is located in a 30,000-square-foot facility on Splain Drive. It will move to Wellerman Road into a 60,000-square-foot facility.
Construction is ongoing, and the building should be completed within 12 months, Hall said.
The West Monroe Guest House, another local nursing home, also will double in size when it is relocated on 20 acres of land behind Academy Sports. The current nursing home is located next to Wal-Mart in West Monroe.
Construction cost for the Guest House project is $10 million. It should take about 120 days to complete.
Hall said the new Guest House will be "substantially bigger, probably twice the size."
While a somewhat stagnant economy has hurt construction businesses in many parts of the country, Hall said business is booming for his company and others throughout the region.
"This area is kind of an anomaly … our business has not slowed down at all," Hall said. "Realtors have even told me that housing is doing real well here, too. I'm optimistic about our area. I know it's hurting in other parts of the country, but there's still work going on around here."