ArcBest on schedule with corporate office expansion, plans include retail space

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,163 views 

Work continues on the steel frame for new ArcBest corporate headquarters building at Chaffee Crossing.

The massive new ArcBest corporate headquarters structure taking form on a Chaffee Crossing ridge overlooking much of southeast Fort Smith is on schedule for a spring 2017 completion, said ArcBest exec Walter Echols.

Echols, vice president-real estate for the publicly-held and Fort Smith-based transportation and logistics holding company, said the 205,000-square-foot office building is a “milestone project” for the company and will house 800-1,000 employees once fully occupied.

ArcBest President and CEO Judy McReynolds first announced the $30 million expansion in May 2014, saying the plan also included adding 975 corporate jobs by 2021. At that time there were between 1,300-1,400 ArcBest corporate jobs in the Fort Smith area. ABF Freight, one of the nation’s largest less-than-truckload carriers, is the largest ArcBest subsidiary.

The company will retain its high-profile, 191,000-square-feet corporate headquarter building on Old Greenwood Road in Fort Smith. That facility, which opened in early 1995, is expected to provide space for ABF Freight and ArcBest Technologies employees. Moving corporate and logistics jobs out of the existing corporate headquarters will allow room for expansion at ABF Freight and ArcBest Technologies (formerly Data-Tronics).

Echols said the primary goal of the building committee was to end up with a structure that will be as functional and appealing as the existing corporate headquarters built in 1994-1995.

Steel for the new Arcbest corporate headquarters building at Chaffee Crossing emerges from the treeline above a residential area.
Steel for the new ArcBest corporate headquarters building at Chaffee Crossing emerges from the treeline above a residential area.

“I’m looking for the same aesthetic beauty and functionality at our new building at Chaffee as we have here,” Echols told Talk Business & Politics. “Our building here at 3801 Old Greenwood is just a great building. It has really served us well. … I just hope we produce the same results (with the new building) as what was produced here.”

Little Rock-based Cromwell is the architectural firm for the new building and also designed the existing headquarters. So far, there have been no big surprises with design and construction and the project is “within budget,” said Echols, who joined the company in 1975 and is one of the longest-tenured officers at ArcBest.

He also said the 3801 Old Greenwood building now serving as the corporate headquarters will by no means be empty when ArcBest corporate offices and the logistics division move to the new building at Chaffee Crossing. He said the company is “pushing capacity at 3800 Old Greenwood Road.”

“It will be well populated,” Echols said of the existing building. “There will be some room for growth, but there will be a big population here (3801 Old Greenwood).”

To make room for growth at the new site, the initial plan to build a 160,000-square-foot structure grew to 205,000 square feet. Also, the original 30 acres purchased by ArcBest has grown with the acquisition of another 40 acres around the site, Echols said, bringing the total project to 70 acres. By comparison, the existing headquarters campus is on 48.5 acres, he said.

Of the additional 40 acres, 30 is for future expansion and buffering, and 10 acres along McClure Road is for commercial development similar to that of the Cornerstone commercial area near the corporate building on Old Greenwood Road. Echols said the goal is to bring restaurants, dry cleaners, a branch bank and other “retail support services” to the 10-acre development.

“We would like to have that developed at the same time (as the new building opens), but as you know, retail typically follows occupancy … so it will be a period of time after our occupancy before it evolves,” Echols said of the timeline for the associated commercial development.

He also is optimistic that adjacent residential construction will result in retail interest in the 10-acre development.

As to occupancy of the new corporate office building, that will happen a few months after its spring 2017 completion. Furniture, fixtures and equipment will take time, and employees will make the move in phases.

“When we moved into this building in 1994, we did it in stages, and that’s what we will do there,” Echols said.

ArcBest (NASDAQ: ARCB) is set to release first quarter earnings on April 29. The company share price ended Thursday at $20.95, down 19 cents. During the past 52 weeks the share price has ranged from a $39.78 high to a $16.43 low.