Methodist Village clears Fort Smith Planning Commission hurdle, on track for $15 million assisted living facility in 2017

by Aric Mitchell ( 90 views 

Methodist Village will move forward with Phase I of its plan to build the first full-service Life Plan Community in the Fort Smith region. Life Plan Communities (or LPCs) allow seniors a full scope of services and amenities from memory care to independent living.

The first stage, which Talk Business & Politics reported on in September 2016, will include a $15 million, 45-bed assisted living facility on the existing campus at 7811 Euper Lane. As part of the conditional use request that Fort Smith Planning Commissioners voted for Tuesday night, Jan. 10, Methodist Village also received a variance to build up from the standard 40,000-square-feet building size to 49,297 square feet.

While the first phase does come with an eight-figure price tag, Leffring has said that not all the funds have to be in place to start.

“We’ll be able to start Phase I before we raise the $3 million, but we may need another $2-$3 million before we can start Phase II. We don’t know the number yet. It’s just a matter of going to the bank and saying, ‘What do we need?’ to qualify for the loans.”

With the conditional use and variance hurdles complete, the decision will go to the Fort Smith Board of Directors for final approval, allowing Methodist Village to start construction in 2017. Leffring estimates the full-time equivalent of 27 new jobs and an additional $1 million in payroll (combined salary and benefits) to the Fort Smith region.

“With phase one, it’s an average of about $37,000 per employee. You’ll have some that are less than that and some that are more. That’s a projection that looks out to 2020, which will be our first year of stabilization. There will also be lots of construction jobs for 12 months as we build it out,” Leffring said.

Methodist Village employs 160 full- and part-time employees. After the three phases are complete, Leffring expects the number to be more than 200 employees with the first 27 added in 2017 and the rest during Phase III.

Also Tuesday night, the Planning Commission denied a series of related requests from Stuart Ghan, principal broker at R.H. Ghan Property Management, to amend the Master Land Use Plan from residential detached to neighborhood commercial for property located at 4605 S. P Street.

In a memo dated Dec. 28, 2016, Planning Department staff wrote that although the property adjacent to the location is classified as a residential attached and residential detached, “four lots on the east end of South P Street are classified as general commercial and developed as a fast food restaurant (Taco Bell) and a real estate office.”

Ghan hoped to demolish a house on the lot and develop it as an offsite parking lot, but a number of area home owners spoke out against it, with one noting he “did not want to look out my front door and see a parking lot.” Another cited concerns that the lot would increase traffic in an already congested area. Commissioners voted 5-1 with one abstention against the development. Josh Carson was the lone “for” vote and Bob Cooper the abstention.