FCRA says Chaffee Crossing investments have topped $1 billion

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 142 views 

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority has crossed the $1 billion mark for projected capital investments on properties sold during its 15-year history with an estimated $82.753 million listed as the value of capital investments on property sold in 2015, according to FCRA’s newly released annual report.

The lion’s share ($408.4 million) was attributed to industrial buyers with residential development a distant second at just north of $258 million.

The authority was formed in 1997 and resulted from a decision in the late 1990s to close Fort Chaffee. About 65,000 acres of the training ground was leased to the Arkansas Army National Guard, with a little more than 7,000 acres returned to area city and county officials for development.

Of the Industrial buyers, Mars PetCare was No. 1 at $211.7 million; Mitsubishi No. 2 at $100 million; Graphic Packaging No. 3 at $57.4 million; Umarex USA No. 4 at $17.8 million; and Phoenix Metals No. 5 at $12 million. Closing out the list at just under $10 million were Old Dominion Freight ($6 million), Affinity Chemical ($2 million), and Chaffee Commercial Properties ($1.5 million).

Most of the industrial recruitment to Chaffee Crossing was handled by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and city of Fort Smith.

Mitsubishi was the only one of the major buyers that didn’t pan out. The company announced they would invest $100 million into a wind-turbine assembly plant at Chaffee Crossing in 2009, but decided to mothball the facility in 2012. The company re-listed the property in early 2015. On Tuesday (March 1), Glatfelter announced their intent to purchase the Mitsubishi building with 83 new jobs expected by late 2017.

In all, Chaffee Crossing industries employ 1,255 people full-time.

Third on the overall list of projected capital investments was Government spending with approximately $146 million spent in total, including state and federal funds as well as a $3 million investment from the city of Fort Smith.

Fort Smith Fire Station #11, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department District 4 Headquarters, and Interstate 49, were among the major line items, according to the FCRA.

The city of Fort Smith’s major contribution was $3 million to build Fire Station #11, while the state contributed $13 million for the AHTD Headquarters, and feds spent approximately $130 million on I-49. While the city contributed the smallest portion to the $146 million figure, that doesn’t tell the whole story of what it has invested in other areas of Chaffee Crossing, noted the FCRA.

One major area is in streets and utilities improvements, which work out to around $45.7 million, split 50/50 by the city and the FCRA. This figure includes “Chad Colley Blvd., Flagstone Road, McClure Drive, R.A. Young Jr. Drive, and other street, sewer and water projects,” said FCRA marketing director Lorie Robertson, and it does not include grant monies obtained for assisting on those projects. Those figures have yet to be itemized.

The city has also pumped in around $3.5 million for parks and recreation, including for McClure Amphitheater renovations as well as the new River Valley Sports Complex and trails improvements.

On the education side, FCRA posted $107 million in investments, most of which come by way of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, which was listed as $102 million, $32.4 million of which is for the facility under construction and the remainder for possible future development.

There has been some criticism from business and civic officials over the years that the authority has been able to drive development with the advantage of free land or reduced land prices. This advantage, some have argued, has also resulted in higher expenses for the city of Fort Smith which provides much of the fire, police and utility services for the area.