MAPC approves first phase of Keller convention center project

by Michael Wilkey (mwilkey@talkbusiness.net) 83 views 

Rendering of the possible Jonesboro hotel appearance with the Keller Convention Center project.

A proposed $80 million convention center along Interstate 555 is one step closer to reality as commissioners voted Tuesday (May 24) on the opening part of the project.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the first phase of the Hyatt Place and Convention Center project, pending the receiving of city permits by Keller Management.

The engineering firm turned in paperwork earlier this month on the 40-acre, $27 million project. The project will have a 108,888-square-foot hotel, a 40,891-square-foot convention center and two 6,768-square-foot restaurants, officials with the firm said. Of the 42 acres, about 13 acres will be used to build the hotel and two restaurants, Easley said.

Jonesboro Planning Director Otis Spriggs said the convention center will have 684 parking spaces, well above what is required under city ordinance. There was some discussion over traffic concerns, especially on Browns Lane Access, Spriggs told the commission. A traffic analysis study will have to be done in the future, Spriggs said.
The site plan request was presented to city officials earlier this month.

John Easley, representing Jonesboro-based Associated Engineering, spoke to the commission about the Keller project Tuesday. Officials said earlier this month that a 147-room Hyatt Place Hotel will be built at the site of the former Arkansas Services Center, with a $15 million second hotel being built in the second phase. Also, a $10 million restaurant and retail development plan will be done in phase two, officials have said.

Another group, Centerline LLC, will appear in June to ask for phase two, Easley told the commission. No one from Keller or Centerline, LLC attended the meeting Tuesday to discuss the projects with commissioners.

Easley said the next step on the first phase will involve dirt and land grading work being started by the end of May.

As for the type of restaurants that will locate in the Keller convention center, Centerline representative Gary Harpole said there has been “some general and some specific” discussions with restaurants. However, Harpole declined to comment on specifics, citing confidentiality agreements between Centerline, LLC and the restaurants. Harpole did say that any restaurant in the complex would be upscale in nature.

Officials with Missouri-based O’Reilly Hospitality Management have also announced they are building a 202-room Embassy Suites, a 40,000-square-foot convention center and a Houlihan’s restaurant at the former ASU track complex just off Red Wolf Boulevard.

Officials with O’Reilly and Arkansas State University have also said a hotel management program would be created at the Jonesboro campus. ASU officials have also said the O’Reilly project would provide a $44 million boost to the area economy on a yearly basis, create 300 jobs at the O’Reilly convention center and 100 jobs in Jonesboro.

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