Arkansas College for Health Education to buy land once set aside for Fort Smith Public Schools

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,025 views 

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Real Estate Review Committee voted Thursday (April 25) to recommend selling land originally set aside for Fort Smith Public Schools to the Arkansas College for Health Education (ACHE).

Fort Smith Public Schools School Board voted March 11 to release 80-acres of reserved land at Chaffee Crossing back to FCRA. The land was reserved for the district in 2010 as the potential site for a secondary school site. It was to be held until 2020.

FSPS received the former Hutcheson shoe facility in east Fort for use as the career and technology center planned under the district’s capital improvement plan that is funded by a voter-approved millage increase. The 181,710-square-foot building that sits on almost 17 acres at the corner of Zero Street and Painter Lane will save the district at least $3 million that had been budgeted to buy an existing building for the career center.

With that property, the school district no longer needs the land at Chaffee Crossing. ACHE and ERC Create submitted sealed bids on the property April 24. ERC Create offered the authority $1.25 million for 69 acres. John Alford, attorney for ERC Create, told the committee that developer Rod Coleman intends to build between 125 and 140 residential units on the land, including some duplexes, ranging in price of $200,000 to $250,000. That would lead to $4 to $5 million in property tax for area, Alford said.

ACHE President Kyle Parker said the property would help the college in its mission to improve healthcare access and the lives of those living in the area. The college, which operates the Arkansas Osteopathic Medical College and will open the Arkansas College of Health Sciences in 2020, offered $1.2 million for 71 acres.

Parker said the land would be used for an educational facility as well as some commercial and residential areas. He said students attending the schools spend approximately $29,500 a year for food, housing, clothing and supplies. By 2023, even without another school added college, the estimated 980 students who would be attending the school would put $28.91 million into the local economy, he said.

“That’s if we never build another building,” Parker said. “This college will produce billions of dollars in benefits,” Parker said.

Committee member Janie Glover moved to recommend selling the land to ACHE because of the economic development benefit it does and will bring to the area. The committee unanimously approved that motion. The recommendation will go to the full FCRA board of directors for discussion at its next regular meeting May 16.

Parker would not elaborate on the plans for the land, but said the main piece would be a 100,000-square-foot-building that “will be academic in nature but not solely regulated to classrooms.” There also might be an outdoor event area, he said.

“This will impact all citizens, the entire community, not just academic side,” Parker said.