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COA approved for remodeling project at downtown jewelry store

Posted on May 10, 2019

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The El Dorado Historic District Commission has given the OK for a downtown jewelry store to move forward with the exterior component of a remodeling project.

Commissioners on Thursday approved a Certificate of Appropriateness request for Murphy-Pitard Jewelers, 201 N. Jefferson.

COAs are required for most exterior projects within the city’s commercial historic district, particularly if such projects could significantly alter the historical significance of a building.

The commercial historic district covers much of Downtown El Dorado and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The remodeling project will also cover the store’s interior, Murphy-Pitard owners have said.

Local architect Michael Rogers, of M R Designs and a former chairman of the EHDC, told commissioners Thursday that the scope of work for the exterior portion of the project will be minimal.

Amanda Pitard, who co-owns the jewelry business with husband Toddy, previously told commissioners that a Florida architect who specializes in retailspace design, particularly jewelry stores, was working on the project.

Rogers said Thursday the Florida architect is focusing on the interior component of the remodel, while M R Designs will handle the exterior, construction and administrative details of the project.

Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said the building — which is historically known as the Murphy/ Union Building — is a contributing structure within the commercial historic district, meaning it is at least 50 years old and has not been significantly altered from its original appearance.

Eggleston corrected information she previously received that said the building, the original home of Murphy Oil, was constructed in 1935.

She said she learned the building actually went up in 1950, with the upper floors added in 1953.

“Murphy Oil stayed there until 1984,” she said.

Rogers walked commissioners through the details of the project, as outlined in the COA application, explaining that exterior work will entail the replacement of the front entrance, which, while it is original to the building, does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A single, 36-inch outward swinging door will replace smaller, inward swinging doors.

A linear drain has been proposed for the threshold of the storefront to prevent rainwater from pooling in the area, Rogers said.

“We’re looking at options. Our main purpose is to get water away from the entrance,” Rogers said. “There’s not a flooding issue. There are two elevations that are the same and there’s sponging on both sides.”

He said a carpet outside the door soaks up water, which filters to the carpet just inside the entrance. He said the carpets will be replaced.

If the drain cannot be sloped to the sidewalk, Rogers said the team may have to consider a curbcut.

Additionally, Rogers said the octagonal corner on the column out front will be squared off and the red cladding will be replaced with granite tile finishes.

“There are no other octagons there. Everything else is clean lines, very linear and this will complement that,” he said.

Two new signs with individual, backlit letters will be installed, one facing Jefferson Avenue and the other facing Elm Street. Two new diamond logos will also be added to the existing corner column.

Commissioners Larry Combs and Diane Murfee inquired about the changes to the column, with Combs said, “Why are you changing the tile there? It’s not worn out.”

Murfee asked if the existing granite on the column is original to the building, and Combs said, “As far as I know it is.”

“I’m just having a hard time with why you’re changing it. I hear what you’re saying,” she said.

Rogers said the finishes are being updated for the historical significance of the building.”

Eggleston previously noted that the Pitards own their retail space and the adjacent area that is being used by the United States Postal Service for post office boxes and a mail-drop service.

On Thursday, she said Horizontal Property Regime is listed as the owner of the building and Rogers said the Murphy Foundation is aware of and has signed off on the remodel at Murphy-Pitard Jewelers.

The USPS entered into a sublease agreement with the Pitards to use the adjacent space, which formerly housed Union Station Cafe.

In March, Amanda Pitard told commissioners column, explaining that the changes will apply only to the column.

“Everything else, all the other cladding on the building will remain the same,” he said.

Eggleston asked if the existing granite could be stored instead of disposed and Rogers said the request would be taken under consideration.

Combs noted that other work has been done to the building over the years, including the installation of new windows.

“I would not bring something to you that was inappropriate,” Rogers said. “I don’t think changing the materials on that corner column would make you think it’s not a historic building. It does not change the in March that once the remodel is completed, the jewelry store will abut the USPS space.

Commissioner Ken Bridges inquired about a timeline for the project.

Rogers said the work will be done in two phases to minimize the disruption of the jewelry store’s business. Each phase will take 60 – 90 days to complete, he said.

He also said construction documents should be issued in two weeks and work is expected to begin in the summer.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or