On The Go With Argenta Developer Greg Nabholz

by Steve Shuler ([email protected]) 368 views 

Greg Nabholz and I are sitting in an Argenta business called “The Joint.” It’s a casual yet hip café that serves very good coffee, small plates and beer, and also doubles as a small theater that hosts a regular, popular improv night.

It’s a locale that is indicative of the Argenta district – a business that is current, relevant and fully self-aware.

These are traits The Joint very much has in common with Nabholz. That isn’t really surprising, because The Joint likely wouldn’t exist without him.

Nabholz is the CEO of Nabholz Properties, a company that is working with other firms and the city of North Little Rock to develop Argenta into a vibrant retail, residential and entertainment district. My assignment in interviewing him is not to ask him about the status of the development or to lay out the exact details of his plan. I tell him before the interview begins, “I’m not here to ask about the latest happenings in Argenta. I’m here to take a behind-the-scenes look at you and your work.” And with that, I begin recording our conversation.

I might as well have said nothing. Nabholz blinks at me, then begins talking about his plan for Argenta. For the next 30 minutes, he keeps talking, showing me each parcel of land in Argenta and laying out how the land will be used and when the particular area of the development will be ready. Two residential buildings should see groundbreaking in the next few months and be finished next year. Another area will serve the Argenta farmers’ market. This block will be retail. That area will be run by the library system. Here is the parking lot. I get in a question or two, but largely, I just listen as Nabholz goes step-by-step through his blueprint.

We don’t discuss Nabholz himself at any point in that half hour. I get the idea that the off-kilter interview I came to do wasn’t in Nabholz’s plan for our time together. But in a way, that’s telling about him.

Nabholz is undeniably a man that lives by the plan. It’s apparent when I interrupt him to ask about the timetable and if everything is moving according to schedule.

“We’re two years behind where we want to be,” says Nabholz, never breaking eye contact, except to look down at his layout. It’s how he operates. Direct, making sure you are clear on what he is telling you. “You know, there’s a lot of moving parts in getting things teed up, and there’s some public projects coming that have to lead off first.” The delay is almost a nuisance, even in hindsight; something that kept him from reaching his goal on time because it went against the plan.

But city districts don’t come to life without a plan. Somebody has to go through every detail and make sure that each block works in harmony with those surrounding it. Somebody has to plan where housing developments are located and when they open. Somebody has to coordinate the development and make sure new businesses have the customers they need, while residents have the amenities that justify paying the rent. In Argenta, Nabholz is that somebody.

He checks his watch about 40 minutes into our time together. He has planned a conference call at 2 pm, and we’re just minutes away from that. Time to get in what questions I can before he has to leave. I start by asking him about why he wants to bring such a change to Argenta. He answers by talking about the people who influenced him.

“I like to credit Jim Moses, I had a chance to work with him in the early 1990’s. He was a pioneer in Arkansas as far as the revitalization of downtown Little Rock and the River Market. He is why, even though we would do projects in the traditional sense, you know, I always wanted to do something more,” says Nabholz.

“I also got acquainted with John Gaudin and Harold (Tenenbaum), and John is a visionary and also an artist, and he had been looking with Harold, who shares the vision, at this opportunity to invest. They wanted to put a partnership together. We had an opportunity where we wanted to be a part of that partnership.”

I pick up on the descriptions he has for his contemporaries. Visionary. Pioneer. I ask him if he sees himself in the same way. It’s clearly not a question he was expecting. He stops and thinks before answering.

“I do, and it’s a compliment, thank you. I do think big picture. What I think I’m really good at is connecting people. I’ve made it a point to get involved in looking at organizations or individuals or companies or whoever it is, they’re all working toward the same goal, and there’s a disconnect sometimes in trying to pull that together.”

He stops again, making sure all his words are in order, then continues, “Real estate is only a part of making the place, and really what I’ve found is that we’re all making great places, and that’s what I want to do.”

That’s what the plan is for Nabholz, for Argenta. Making great places.

It’s the engine that drives what Nabholz is doing, both professionally and personally (he now lives in Argenta, just a block from the epicenter of the development). It would be overly reductive to ignore the work of his partnership and the city of North Little Rock in bringing Argenta so far along in such a short amount of time.

Nabholz has enjoyed enormous support in this development. But there is no ignoring his permanent fingerprints on Argenta’s past and future.

Could Argenta have experienced a rebirth without Nabholz? It’s probably a good thing that we’ll never have to answer that question.

Editor’s note: Greg Nabholz appeared on Talk Business Arkansas this week. You can view his interview below.