Doe’s owner seeks purchase of Old Post Office building

The Old Post Office building stands at the center of the Fayetteville downtown square.

Photos by Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Last week, we learned that a new buyer has stepped forward to purchase the Old Post Office, and that the building is once again under contract with a June closing date.

This week, we found out that the buyer is Doe’s Eat Place owner Jim Huson.

For now, it doesn’t appear that Huson, who currently owns the Fayetteville and Bentonville Doe’s franchises, has any plans to open a steakhouse in the building at the center of the Fayetteville square.

Fayetteville real estate agent Tim Stein, an executive broker with Bassett Mix & Associates who represents Huson, said he will be seeking a tenant to occupy the property as soon as the sale is final. Stein said Huson is open to just about any type of tenant for the building.

“An upscale restaurant would be a great fit for the main level of the building, but it would also work well as an office building,” Stein said. “With the proximity to the court houses, law offices would do great in the space.”

Stein said he plans to lease the property for “around $12 or so” per square foot.

“Jim has indicated a willingness to lease the entire building to one person, or business, and allow them to sublet the rest of the spaces,” he said.

Huson made his intention to purchase the building public in a letter to members of the Fayetteville City Council last week, seeking an arrangement to lease the publicly-owned patio space adjacent to the building.

Fayetteville city attorney Kit Williams said that past tenants have leased the patio area for between $139-$200 per month.

In his letter, Huson said he hoped that the city would lease the property to him free of charge in exchange for the space and electricity required by a wireless transmitter located inside the building that provides free public Wi-Fi to the square, and speakers mounted to the building used during public events.

“I feel as though our continued cooperation with the City of Fayetteville, coupled with the potential tax revenue generated for the City from its use, is reasonable compensation for use by me as property owner or any future tenant of the adjoining property,” he wrote.

Williams told the City Council Tuesday night that he is working on creating a lease agreement for the patio area, and that he plans to have a draft ready for review at their next meeting.

About the Old Post Office

The old post office is a familiar landmark located in the center of the Fayetteville downtown square that served as a U.S. Post Office from 1911 until 1963. The original cost of construction was $60,000.

The fate of the building was in jeopardy when in 1974, it was slated for demolition by the Urban Renewal Plan for the downtown area. A group of citizens began a petition drive to preserve the Neoclassical Revival structure as a historic landmark. Eventually the ruling was reversed and the building was saved.

In August 1974, the building was placed on the National Historic Register. Two years later, the building was purchased by Donald and Edna Bumpass. In 1977, a project began to convert the old post office into an upscale restaurant and club. Original features preserved include the building’s native marble frieze panels, classical dentals, and solid brass door handles. The electrical system, with copper fuses and fuse boxes enclosed within beveled glass, was designed by Thomas Edison.

The property is encumbered with a Historic Preservation Easement dated June 18, 1978. The easement has a term of 40 years. This agreement requires the owner or successors of the subject property to maintain and administer the property so as to preserve its historical character for the 40-year term. The agreement also gives the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program the first rights of refusal if the owner shall wish to sell the property. The Arkansas Department of Historic Preservation has twice declined to exercise the right of refusal.

In the past 15 years, the old post office has housed various business including Hog City Diner, Stogie’s Fine Cigars and Tobacco, Sodie’s Fountain and Grill, Jammin’ Java, and Urban Table. The property is currently vacant except for Ron Bumpass’s use of the upper level’s western portion for his legal practice.

Source: A&P Commission