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Plans announced after sale of former bank branch in Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood

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Photographs by John Sykes Jr.

The former Delta Trust & Bank branch at 2924 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Hillcrest sold last month for $540,000. It will be converted into an orthodontist’s office.

Hodge Property Holdings, led by Robert Hodge III, bought a former Delta Trust & Bank branch in Little Rock last month with plans to convert it to an orthodontist's office.

Hodge paid $540,000 for the branch at 2924 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Hillcrest.

Hodge's wife, Natalia, is an orthodontist and will open her office in the building, Robert Hodge said. It will be called Hodge Orthodontics.

Remodeling should begin soon, Hodge said. He hopes the business can begin operation in the next three months, he said.

The exterior doesn't need much work, but the interior renovations will be significant, he said. The building has 2,164 square feet.

The building is in the Hodges' neighborhood and Robert Hodge has considered buying the branch since 2013 when he returned to Little Rock from residing out of state, he said.

"I couldn't figure out why that piece of property was vacant, because it's such a perfect spot," Hodge said. "I found out that Simmons [Bank] owned it and I badgered them about it for six months."

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He found out this year that the branch was about to go up for sealed auction, which Hodge won. The appraised value of the branch and property was almost $1.1 million.

Hodge financed the purchase with a $270,000 loan with First National Bank of Paragould that matures in June 2037.

Robert Hodge is an attorney with Hodge Calhoun Giattina in Little Rock.

Homebuilding

Billy Hartness Construction Co. sold a new house last month at 8 Flatrock Point near Cooper Orbit Road in west Little Rock for $549,000.

Brenda Hartness, president of the construction company, said home construction in Pulaski County is on the rise.

"From what I see of houses being built, I would say it is up this year," Hartness said.

One factor slowing homebuilding for Hartness Construction is the number of lot drawings being held for property in high-end subdivisions, Hartness said. Some of the new high-dollar neighborhoods in Little Rock use lot drawings to designate the lots a builder gets to work on, she said.

There were 60 lots in a draw at the most recent lot drawing in Chenal Valley, Hartness said. Hartness got two lots.

Billy Hartness Construction, which builds homes in the $300,000 to $700,000 range, is ahead of its 2016 pace, she said. It built about 12 homes last year and has built about eight so far this year, Hartness said.

Homes are selling if the price is right, said Graham Smith, who owns Graham Smith Construction LLC. There is a lot of home construction going on now, he said.

"We are running wide open," Smith said of his firm. "We have a lot of pre-solds and a lot of people are seeking us out."

Smith built about 23 houses last year and about 30 this year. Smith sold a house for $362,000 last month in Phase 3 of Wildwood Ridge.

Homebuilding costs are going up, the two contractors said.

Lumber prices have risen, Hartness said.

For Smith, an increase in labor costs has been the most significant.

"Material prices have stabilized and now labor costs have been going up over the last two years substantially, maybe as much as 20 percent," Smith said.

A representative at Little Rock's building permits department was unable to provide totals for new home permits issued for the year.

SundayMonday Business on 07/16/2017

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