Mayor Bart Castleberry and city officials have 18 months to find a suitable location for a new Conway City Hall after aldermen approve leasing the current facility at 1201 W. Oak St. to Conway Corporation on Tuesday.
"The clock is ticking," Castleberry said after the council voted 7-0 to approve the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Alderman Mary Smith was absent.
He said the city has outgrown the current City Hall and that officials have been talking "for some time" about leasing the building to Conway Corp, "one of our best partners here in Conway." Currently, 27 city employees work inside the 11,664-square-foot building.
"This is going to be exciting for downtown Conway," Castleberry said.
Conway Corp plans to use the space for the Arnold Innovation Center (AIC), which is meant to be the epicenter of Conway's start-up community. It is named in honor of Conway Corp's former CEO Richie Arnold, who retired in 2017.
Current CEO Bret Carroll said City Hall's location was ideal for the AIC.
"It's a great location, perfect for what we'd like to do," Carroll said. "We'll use that to house start ups to have co-working space. It's another evolution in our connection to education and our connection to economic development."
City Attorney Chuck Clawson explained that the MOU "defines City Hall as one of the city's properties and facilities that Conway Corp would take over management of."
Under the agreement, the city will provide Conway Corp full access to the property within 30 days of relocating. Conway Corp will pay the city $1.05 million for use of the property during the term of the agreement, which ends Dec. 31, 2070, unless both parties choose to renew or terminate it.
"The parties may mutually agree to terminate this Agreement at any time," the MOU reads in part. "This Agreement will automatically terminate if the city in unable to relocate all operations and personnel from the Property to another suitable location within 18 months of the execution of this Agreement. In that event, the city will return to Conway Corp any and all monies paid under the terms of this Agreement."
Alderman Shelley Mehl praised the idea.
"I think it’s real important that they city has some control over what happens downtown," she said. "This partnership furthers that vision of what we want for Conway’s downtown area.”
In other business, the council approved:
• Issuing private club permits for Aramark-Conway Club Inc. doing business as Twisted Taco and for YourPie of Conway.
• Transferring Mosaique Bistro and Grill's private club permit from its former location inside Donaghey Hall to its new location at 812 Chestnut St.
• Amending the city's subdivision ordinance to comply with the Master Street Plan.
• Accepting the lowest bid for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 65B (Harkrider and Bruce streets).
• Allowing the Conway Police Department to donate four vehicles the department no longer uses to Renewal Ranch.
Unless otherwise noted, the Conway City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Judge "Jack" Roberts District Court Building. All its meetings are open to the public.