Diesel Downs, development envisioned by Gary Combs, seeing renewed interest

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 452 views 

Bank-owned acreage along Interstate 49 once envisioned as a commercial mixed-use development by the late Gary Combs is receiving renewed interest.

Two real estate transactions totaling nearly $3 million were recorded in December in Diesel Downs, a roughly 33-acre project at the northeast corner of Interstate 49 and Wagon Wheel Road in Springdale. Levi Storage LLC, led by Raymond Merrill of Sallisaw, Okla., bought Lots 4 and 5 (9.81 acres) of Diesel Downs for $1.01 million, a purchase price of $2.38 per square foot.

Merrill has been an active investor in Northwest Arkansas the past few years, particularly in self-storage facilities. He said his development plans for the property will likely include multiple buildings with different uses, including self-storage and flex warehouse.

“There’s a lot of demand for that flex warehouse,” he told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “And that’s about as handy a location as you can get up through the [Interstate 49] corridor. It’s got good access.”

He said the building sizes would potentially be approximately 40,000 square feet for the self-storage and “whatever we can get” for the flex warehouse.

Adjacent to Merrill’s property, Leawood, Kan.-based heavy-duty truck dealer Murphy-Hoffman Co. closed on a $1.82 million purchase of Lots 6 and 7 (11.56 acres) of Diesel Downs, a purchase price of $3.63 per square foot.

MHC operates 68 heavy-duty truck dealerships in 16 states across the U.S., including MHC Kenworth/Volvo at 4720 W. Sunset Ave. in Springdale. A MHC spokeswoman said it was premature to comment on any development plans for the I-49 land.

Simmons Bank of Pine Bluff, the seller in both deals, was represented by Ramsay Ball with Colliers International in Rogers.

Combs, who succumbed to cancer in August 2012, bought the land nearly a decade ago for $7 million, with plans to develop the property and anchor it with a truck stop. According to an article published Nov. 30, 2009, in the Business Journal, Diesel Downs never developed beyond having the infrastructure completed and the site ready for construction. When it came time to fund the second phase of construction, Combs said Little Rock-based Metropolitan National Bank – now defunct after being acquired in November 2013 by Simmons Bank – wouldn’t make the promised loan. The land became bank-owned in June 2010.

Potential construction in the Diesel Downs area would add to the busy construction activity along the I-49 corridor, and underscore a recent analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Construction spending hit a 10-year high in November, according to the AGC, with monthly and year-over-year gains in both public and private categories.

Construction spending in November totaled $1.18 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, the highest total since April 2006.