Our history began with the age - old saying in the real estate profession that we hear repeated over and over again, that is "under all is the land". We admit it is hard to quibble with this saying as it is pretty obvious that the land is certainly under us. However, the difference is in the implication it makes that we are saying that land is what creates value. It is true that land can and does have value, but this is true only because of people. In reality, all values are created by people, and the REALTORS® in our community lead the field.
It is a reasonable thing that when you speak about REALTORS® you speak about the community and the various segments of our society in the same breath. All of the various facets of our community life as we know it today is continually seeking leadership to help their organization grow. It is a rare organization - be it church, fraternal, civic or community - that can grow without the skilled type of leadership that REALTORS® can provide. Whether it is Boy Scouts or a Little League team, a church or a city commission, there is a real need for a REALTOR® to help in their various committees such as finances, building, site acquisition, new membership campaigns and, above all, to make use of the leadership qualities that these men and women have developed.
A real force in the community was created when all REALTORS® with their diversified interests joined together in an association which enabled them to exchange the ideas and opportunities of other diverse groups with each other, and to weld together a group of men and women that are the real leaders in making our community a better place to live.
This Association (as we now know it) got its first start in 1904 when it was an adjunct of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, which at that time was the Little Rock Board of Trade. In 1911, we received a Charter from the National Association of Real Estate Boards and became a separate organization. The Board (as known then) came into its own in the 20s - - back in the days of
bath tub gin,
true confession magazines,
and, of course, the roaring stock market rise until 1929 and its dismal crash at the end of the decade. Yes, this was an eventful, gaudy and giddy period.
Back in the late 20's it seems that one of the most pressing problems of the community was in getting Congress to appropriate money to make the Arkansas River navigable. Also during this period of time, the Presidents and their boards met constantly in an effort to obtain a municipal airport for Little Rock. They were even successful in their attempts to get Charles A. Lindberg to visit Little Rock to help promote this worthy cause. One of our past Presidents, Mr. Charles M. Taylor, in an effort to get publicity for this project, offered to take people for free airplane rides in his own plane. The site was located, the Real Estate Board offered free appraisal services, and for the first time, in 1928, Little Rock started getting scheduled air line service.
During that year, Governor Donaghey and his wife donated the Donaghey Building and the property across the street for the Junior College. The Real Estate Board again gave free appraisal services in this transaction, as with the airport project. Also, the Board, with other interested groups, raised $10,000 to build the "little rocket" airplane. It was a real triumph for Little Rock to win first place in the American Air Derby!
As we entered the 1930's, the Board certainly is to be commended for keeping its continuity and its service to members during such trying times. Just imagine trying to operate with all the banks closed.
In early 1931, the Real Estate Board made a survey of vacancies in office buildings downtown and reported a 24% vacancy. In the midst of 1932, a suggestion was made that since there were so many vacant lots in Little Rock that were listed with REALTORS®, that the Board would provide turnip seeds to be planted on these vacant lots, even on downtown lots, and the produce to be distributed to needy people.
In spite of the dismal times, there were several noteworthy items. The new Federal Building was dedicated in 1932 and Little Rock successfully landed one of the twelve National Federal Home Land Banks for the Southwest area.
In these times, it is possible there was jubilation in the streets when hard liquor was put on sale for the first time since 1916. The Real Estate Board had anticipated the liquor legislation and had made a proposal to the state on their idea on how package sales should be made for the best interest of the community.
At the end of his tenure in 1933, the Board President penned a very moving memo that is worth repeating in this space: "Perhaps the year just closed will go down in history as the most trying to industry, finance, and social equilibrium. Such a year cannot pass without having left to a greater or less degree its mark of devastation upon all fields of business endeavor. Certainly the field in which we are interested - Real Estate --has borne more than its share of the burden occasioned by an unsettled economic condition. And yet, as we view the past year in its entirety, I feel quite sure that individually and collectively, we find many bright spots that tend to compensate for the trials of 1933."
"When I assumed the presidency of your Board last January, I had some definite objectives which I hoped we might attain. These objectives were outlined at that time. Scarcely had I taken office until the "National Bank Holiday" was declared. During those trying days most of the members of this Board had swept away from them every business stabilizing factor, and as a group, we were in the dark."
"I mention the unprecedented catastrophe of last year only that I might pay the highest tribute to the stamina and ability of the membership comprising the Little Rock Real Estate Board. Not once during the entire year was the spirit of a quitter shown and as a body, you were a real inspiration."
To show that the Board had lived up to its enviable record of many years, President G. L. Alexander went on to report 18-20 achievements that had been accomplished during his year and not only in this term but throughout almost all of the 1930s the Real Estate Board was constantly working for a building code and zoning code for the City of Little Rock. This, as we all know, has been accomplished.
In fact, Little Rock, in spite of the depression, was in a gala and festive mood during the year 1936 when it had our Centennial Celebration. We certainly did our part in making the celebration a success.
The first order of business in January, 1940, was a very pleasant discussion on helping to get the Little Rock exhibit ready for the New York World Fair.
It was a startled Board that met on December 9, 1941, and discussed what it could do to help with the national war effort. The war years are so filled with memories and experiences, there is no need to rehash them, but I can tell you from reading the minutes of the meetings, this Board was as patriotic a group as you would find in the country. They participated in all the fund raising drives, the paper pick ups, served their terms as members of the OPM, Draft Board, Ration Board, and, of course, as would all organizations of that time, supplied their youth to the armed forces. When the war ended in 1945, the Real Estate Board had anticipated the chaotic conditions that would exist and had definite plans to meet the challenges.
Beginning in the 50's there continued to be high achievements and many accomplishments of REALTORS®. The Board's business was always conducted in such a way that all members have a right to be proud and pleased with the examples that they have set.
In the early 60's Board Committees worked with the Highway Department to minimize the problems associated with the widening of Highway #10, and worked with the City of Little Rock to provide appraisers needed to appraise properties along the proposed 8th Street Expressway (now known as I-630). We worked with several committees in making recommendations to the City of Little Rock on the Land Development Code, the Master Street Plan and a Parking Ordinance. One of the strongest worded letters ever written by the Board was sent to the Chairman of the Planning Commission concerning the Parking Ordinance. A portion of one paragraph of a three page letter reads: "we make no apology for our opposition to the amendments proposed in the original ordinance. Our profession must deal with the public, the developer, and the citizen, in their endeavor to utilize the real property they own, lease, or otherwise possess. At best, a good zoning or planning ordinance, properly interpreted and administered, by its very nature, inhibits and prohibits freedom of use and is often a frustrating influence when compliance conflicts with the desired development."
In 1969 a subsidiary corporation called REALTORS® Multi-List Service was formed, and was responsible to run the multiple listing service. A study committee was formed to investigate the possibility of purchasing and rehabilitating a structure in the Quapaw Quarter for Board offices. This was not successful, however, the committee continued their search for properties that would be suitable for the Board to "own its own home".
The 1970's continued to be heavy with legislative matters, with primary interest in zoning. The outcome on these matters was not good, and it was generally felt that we did not have a chance. However, the committee vowed to keep legislative matters at the top of the list and work with the ARA on real estate political education. Local issues of great importance covered items such as excavation and dirt moving, landscaping, functions of environment, blockbusting, and some members being investigated by the Justice Department.
REALTORS® worked with the Homebuilders and the Bar Association to use our Arbitration and Ethics procedures with their clients when possible, and formed joint committees to affect this proposal.
We worked toward selecting political candidates on all levels who support our positions. As a community service project, an outrageous number of young people county wide were marshaled to clean up unsightly political campaign signs. Contests were held and prizes won for their efforts. The name was changed to the Little Rock and North Board of REALTORS®.
The mid 70's brought about the purchase of a building and parking facility to be remodeled as "our home" at 3rd and Cross Street near downtown Little Rock. Occupancy was available in 1976. Later, additional land was purchased south of the building and would be used as a rental parking lot.
The decade of the 80's brought about change particularly in relinquishing jurisdiction north of the Arkansas River, which allowed another Board to occupy that area. Now, the Little Rock Board of REALTORS® became an all REALTOR® organization, and we were involved in issues such as "due-on-sale", "Amendment 59", "escalation of loan interest on mortgage assumptions", and "the 2% Solution"
In 1983 the common key/lock box system was initiated, and our RPAC contributions were at an all time high. We were also experiencing an all time high for membership growth.
REALTORS® remained very focused on issues such as "excavation ordinance" and "erosion and sediment control". The mid 80's brought about a strong feeling for the Board to own and operate the MLS, which was then provided by PRC.
An offer was made on property located at 300 Natural Resources Drive in western Little Rock, and work was begun to secure architectural services for the design of the new building. In 1987 this became the "new home" for the Association offices. The building and property on Cross Street in downtown Little Rock was sold.
Late in the 80's a new entity was formed and owned by Benton/Bryant Board of REALTORS®, Little Rock Board of REALTORS®, and North Pulaski Board of REALTORS® named the Central Arkansas Regional Multiple Listing Service (CARMLS).
During the final decade of this century, the 1990's, we maintained active concerns on issues affecting the business, and ushered in a group of ambitious projects. Representation from each owner Board/Association of the CARMLS was kept extremely busy monitoring the myriad activities that are necessary for a smooth running system.
The project known as "Our House Day Care Center" was completed and finally dedicated. A plaque is placed in the building entry recognizing Little Rock REALTORS® for their contributions.
The official name was changed from the Little Rock Board of REALTORS® to the Little Rock REALTORS® Association, and the building with property became free and clear of debt. A school license was issued to the Association by the State Board of Private Career Education in order for Continuing Education classes to be conducted for the membership and various issues continued at City Hall. Since the Governmental Affairs Committee is large enough to alternate assignments for attendance at meetings, this committee will monitor the hot issues. "Board of Choice" became a frequently discussed topic as something "coming down the pike".
Staying abreast of current technology, city government issues, legislative matters, affinity programs, professional standards, board of choice, fair housing, continuing education, new member orientation, Arkansas Business Academy, Special Olympics, and other community and school related projects continue to be an ongoing involvement for the members. The expansion of the Regional MLS to other areas of the state promulgated the need for a name change to Cooperative Arkansas REALTORS® Multiple Listing Service.
Late in this decade another phrase heard repeatedly around town and during various meetings came about called "Smart Growth". When groups formed a coalition called "Citizens for Smart Growth", and it became evident that REALTORS® must be involved in these matters. A need appeared for a committee to review all land use ordinances in the City. This was caused by the fragile nature of the Planning Commission to pass annexation of real estate related matters as they focused on other agendas rather than promoting growth. An effort was mounted to identify City Commissions that would have a direct impact on this business and to try to get representation on them. Activity began from one such commission in their effort to create a local fair housing ordinance.
The Association co-sponsored the Real Estate Consortium Habitat Home, and interest continued in matters of Land Alteration, Annexation, Municipal Conservation Districts, a statewide Fair Housing Law, and Absentee Landlords.
At the beginning of the new millennium, concerns continue on the same issues in which we ended the 90s. Interest was renewed in forming a local political action committee as more and more issues are born at City Hall that make development difficult. In working through this process it was agreed that we already have a method for political contributions to be made in an effort to get officials elected who are compatible with the interests of the real estate population, so that what is really needed is a lobbyist to monitor City Hall on behalf of REALTORS®' interest. This matter is currently on-going.
On the national level, the "Big Grab" is of great concern and local members have participated in this letter writing campaign.
As we close the chapters on the past and celebrate our 90th Anniversary in 2001, we look forward to the challenges of this millennium. It is fitting to stay at this point in time with the words of Thomas Jefferson, who designed, formed and signed the acquisition of the Louisiana purchase, (which is still the largest, single legal acquisition of land in the Western Hemisphere) upon his last meeting with Lewis and Clark: "today you take with you the hope of all free men. Go then, my friends on this unchartered continent and bring home to us this land so that we all may dream". For below all is the land.