Wedington Drive, west of Interstate 49, has become a small city with hotels, restaurants, medical offices, a fitness gym, a no-waiting salon for haircuts, grocery stores, retail centers, to mention a few, churches and schools and homes for young families.
Once a haven for apartments and Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corp., Slim Chickens, First Security Bank and the Northwest Medical Center are just a few of the businesses that have opened in recent months and soon will be followed by Starbucks, Freddy’s Frozen Custards and Steakburgers. Starbucks should open in the next 60 days. According to developers and others, no specific opening dates have been announced for either establishment.
Josh Brown, an associate with Haag Brown commercial real estate in Jonesboro, said he expects the Starbucks building — about 7,500 square feet — to be turned over in the next 60 days. Arkansas Dentistry and Braces will occupy the other half of the building. The company recently obtained adjacent property for development although plans are not finalized, Brown said. The property is about an acre and a half.
“We have more people who want to be there,” Brown said.
Among the possibilities for the new space are an AT&T retail store and a restaurant. Plans will probably go the city for approval in the next 30 to 45 days, he said.
Jamie Rheem and 3 Pointe Restaurant Group of Branson, Mo., are the developers of Freddy’s. Rheem has not responded to several telephone messages. According to the Springfield, Mo., Business Journal Online, the group’s first Freddy’s opened in Springfield in 2010 and cost an estimated $500,000.
The movement westward started about seven years ago, said Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. In spite of opposing cries to avoid urban sprawl, developers were finding reasonably price land that was flat, a bonus for builders who wouldn’t have to deal with foundation issues experienced on the east side of the city because of the mountains.
As homes, ranging in size from 1,700 to 2.400 square feet were built in neighborhoods on both sides of Wedington and Mount Comfort Road, schools followed. An early development in that area was the Boys and Girls Club on Rupple Road at Persimmon Street.
“These are the amenities that attract young families,” Clark said.
The growth boom was just getting started. More retail establishments moved in, anchored by Walmart Neighborhood Market and Harp’s Food Store. Clark predicts the growth will continue with more office space joining the mix as residential areas and more retail comes to the area. The catalysts for this continued growth are twofold.
The city of Fayetteville is expected to begin construction this summer to extend Rupple Road about one and a half miles from its end adjacent to Owl Creek School to U.S. 62, or Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. City Planner Andrew Garner said the project will take about 18 months to complete.
“We anticipate development along Rupple when it’s completed,” he said.
Rupple will give all of west Fayetteville easy access to the new Fayetteville Regional Park under development around Mount Kessler. Ground was broken recently on the first phase for six soccer fields, three lighted baseball fields, two concession stands, parking and associated infrastructure. The 600-acre park is located about four miles from the downtown square near the Interstate 49 interchange at South Cato Springs Road.
Fayetteville continues to grow at a rate of about 2,500 new residents a year and many are young families. At that rate the city will be approaching 100,000 in the next several years and many of those new residents will be attracted to Wedington Drive area, Garner predicted.
New neighborhoods are being developed on Persimmon and Salem roads and on the north side of Wedington at The Links where Lindsey management is planning more apartments and single-family homes.
Cross Church is planning a new campus on the east side of Interstate 49. Preliminary plans include a sanctuary, lobby, preschool and children’s areas, office space, and adult classrooms along with parking for 500 vehicles, according the Rev. Nick Floyd, pastor at the existing Wedington church campus, across from Neighborhood Market.
“Our goal is to break ground as soon as possible,” Floyd said. “It all depends on how quickly we make it through the planning processes.”
One of the older businesses along the corridor, Ozarks Electric, is renovating its headquarters.
“We are currently undergoing some minor renovations to our Fayetteville office,” according to a spokesman. “The renovations will include an update to our lobby, better utilizing this space to improve our member’s experience. Additionally, the majority of updates are being implemented to maximize current work space to better meet our growing membership’s needs.”