The instincts of fatherhood led three Jonesboro developers to shift their business model from strictly commercial property to a company much more focused on the quality of life in Northeast Arkansas.
Jerry Halsey Jr., Roddy Thrasher and Gary Harpole — the managing trio of the powerhouse Jonesboro-based real estate group, Halsey Thrasher Harpole — were content making money with commercial property development and management around the mid-South. But conversations with their kids — who were moving into their 20s and early 30s — ignited a conversation about the company the fathers wanted to build.
“We began to experience first-hand the things we were hearing about in meetings about how young talent is just looking for different amenities and quality of life and the kind of environment they want to be in,” Harpole said.
“We consciously decided we didn’t want to leave town every day. We’ve all done tenant work and been in the big cities looking for sites. We’re fortunate enough to have some really good raw land holdings,” Halsey said. “And the opportunity to get to develop those over the next 10 years and stay in Jonesboro and watch Jonesboro grow and put part of our DNA in Jonesboro was attractive.”
Halsey has college-age children, while Thrasher and Harpole have kids in their 20s and 30s who are out of school. Thrasher’s two sons, Nile (31) and Reese (27), are agents in the firm. Reese was a surprise addition as everyone involved thought the would-be world traveler might never set foot in the city again.
“I think one thing that we’re all focused on, because we have kids that we’re trying to keep around here and millennials that we’re trying to keep around here, is give them a taste of Nashville and other markets. We’re not Nashville. We realize that everything that works there won’t work here, but we’re bringing some ideas from there. It’s really important to us to leave a good mark on Jonesboro and hopefully leave it better than we found it,” Roddy Thrasher said.
KEYS TO THE CITY
HTH was founded in 2014, but there are decades of experience among the three leaders. All three principals had varying skills and backgrounds in development and planning before they came together. They had worked separately and together on different projects, but the birth of Greensborough Village — a village within the city — made the timing right for a 2014 merger.
Of late, the group has bought and moved into the Century Center building in downtown Jonesboro on Washington St. There are plans to further renovate and “do something special” with the three-story hub as the headquarters for their adjusted mission. The firm has branched into residential real estate and has a plateful of projects in six key areas in Jonesboro. They include:
• Greensborough Village: The 200-acre mixed use development that is sprouting out of the ground near the ASU campus.
• Central Business District: Which HTH defines as the core of the city’s longtime commercial retail sector with boundaries along Nettleton, Caraway, Highland, and Red Wolf Blvd.
• I-555 Corridor: Where the former Arkansas Services Center once stood.
• Southwest Corridor: A swath of area from the Academies at Jonesboro High back south towards Highway 226. HTH has properties in the area and a 30-acre tract for development near the intersection of Parker Road and Paula Drive.
• Aggie Corridor: An effort to connect downtown Jonesboro to the ASU campus.
• Downtown/West End: The residential neighborhood just west of downtown Jonesboro, where remodels and rebuilds are slowly bringing new residents and businesses back to the oldest part of the city.
UPWARD AND INWARD
In conversations with Harpole, the phrases “density” and “vertical” come up often. He foresees Jonesboro infilling parts of the city that need revitalization and can handle mixed use projects to create “live, work, play” space.
He also says that Jonesboro will start to grow upward. Taller buildings make more sense for density; they can capitalize on infrastructure that’s currently in the ground, take advantage of mature trees and landscaping, and reduce the need to continue geographic expansion of an already expansive city footprint.
“I think you’re going to see a shift in Jonesboro development where you’re going to begin — instead of being in one or two story — you’re going to get more three-, four-, five- and even six- to seven-story developments just because of the economies of scale,” he said.
Halsey added, “We’ve got a lot of what we call ‘good bones’ right here in the center of Jonesboro that I think have an opportunity to be redeveloped and have new use, new life, and quite frankly, we want to be a part of doing that.”
HTH’s strategic shift to diversify beyond commercial real estate and into residential real estate feeds into the effort to create more opportunities for the next generation of residents. Currently, HTH has 27 employees, including 17 residential and commercial agents, and it is looking for more.
“When we talk about adding residential agents and commercial agents, we want to be able to develop new talent so that other people can come and catch a hold of what our vision is,” Halsey said. “Hopefully, success will breed success for other people and in the long run for Jonesboro.”
Harpole adds that getting Jonesboro organized for future growth is crucial to advancing more opportunities in the region. That means sound preservation ordinances, development and redevelopment codes, and design standards. As quality of life progresses in Jonesboro, he hopes to see replication in communities throughout Northeast Arkansas.
“We’ve always been of the opinion that as Jonesboro goes, so goes the region,” he said. “Paragould, Walnut Ridge, Pocahontas, Newport — not to leave anybody out — but we want to be able to work in concert with community leaders. Each one of these markets has something special to be able to offer to the region as we continue to grow.”