Jewish group sues to stop shopping center

Associated Press/November 13, 2004

Little Rock -- A group that wants to build a Jewish center on land next to the site of a proposed shopping center has filed a lawsuit to stop the $65 million retail project.

Members of Arkansas' Chabad Lubavitch, a centuries-old branch of Hasidic Judaism, own land adjacent to the proposed Pleasant Ridge Town Center site. And most of the group's members live within two miles of the site. The shopping center is set to open August 2006.

A complaint filed Friday in Pulaski County Circuit Court says the Jewish community will be "adversely affected and irreparably harmed" by the shopping center.

Such harm includes the loss of green space and natural surroundings caused by the excavation of a hill, noise and air pollution, traffic congestion and the "loss of the quiet enjoyment of their current homes in their current location the neighborhood."

The suit, filed against the Little Rock Board of Directors, says the city acted "capriciously and arbitrarily" when it approved a zoning change Nov. 9 that allows the project to go forward. It asks the court to overturn the board decision.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said the city board gave adequate time and consideration to the Pleasant Ridge development. "There wasn't anything arbitrary at all," he said.

Lou Schickel, the developer for the open-air shopping center, announced last month that Parisian, a Saks Fifth Avenue subsidiary, would open a 120,000-square-foot store in the center. It was the development's first announced tenant.

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