As major commercial projects near completion in Jonesboro, no slowdown is anticipated

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,317 views 

Embassy Suites and Red Wolf Convention Center General Manager Kraig Pomrenke.

One measure for a vibrant local economy is the number of commercial real estate projects underway.

In Jonesboro, the Embassy Suites by Hilton and Red Wolf Convention Center project is nearing completion and the new surgical tower on the St. Bernards medical campus should be finished in December. Projects in Greensborough Village entered their next phase in 2019.

There have been a number of businesses that have opened near the Highland and Caraway road intersection where the former Indian Mall use to sit. Josh Brown, a principal at Haag Brown Commercial, told Talk Business & Politics that during the past 10 years his company has worked on about 38 projects along Red Wolf Boulevard from the bypass to the Arkansas State University campus. Those projects have included Red Lobster, Starbucks, Longhorn Steakhouse and others. Some other projects they’ve worked on this last year include Golden Corral and Texas Roadhouse, the best performing restaurant in the south in markets similar in size to Jonesboro.

He thinks the next major place for development will be on Highland from Southwest Drive to Caraway. There are up to 400,000 people within driving distance of that trade area, nearly double the number of people in the Hilltop trade area near NEA Baptist medical campus that has experienced significant growth since the hospital opened there five years ago.

“I think it’s going to be the next hot spot,” Brown said. “Retailers are really drawn to that area.”

The local and national economies have been booming in recent years and that has had a positive impact on businesses opening and development, Brown said. But, there are downsides to prolonged economic growth, he added. There are shortages of skilled construction industry workers such as plumbers, electricians, and others. Construction prices are much higher because of constant demand, he said.

“It’s much more expensive to build things,” he said.

Another hotbed of commercial real estate development is the Windover Park Area. It’s become the “heart” of the business sector in the city with many companies including Ritter and Barton’s located in that part of the city. There are at least seven projects ongoing there.

“I think it’s the largest concentration of wealth in the city,” Brown added.

One of the city’s primary commercial real estate projects, Greensborough Village, is benefiting from a recent stretch of warm, dry weather.

Infrastructure to support the planned homes, retail shops, office spaces and other construction in the project is coming along on schedule, according to Gary Harpole, Halsey Thrasher Harpole Real Estate Group managing partner.

The new 12-screen Village Theatre at Greensborough, the seventh Malco VIP Theatre, is on the verge of completion, Harpole said. It will join locations in Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville, and Memphis, Tenn. The modern lifestyle theatre will feature 80-inch, full leather reclining seats, a Cinema Grille with expanded food menu and beverages, and advanced digital sound and laser technology.

Greensborough Village combines retail, commercial, office and other spaces with residential development. The Village is modeled after similar developments in Franklin, Tenn. When it’s completed, there will be at least 650,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, and more than 200 single-family homes. It’s estimated up to 2,500 people will live in the village once completed, Harpole said. The development team will select up to four “preferred builders” to build homes in the Village. There’s already a waiting list from interested buyers, he said. The project could total more than $500 million when it’s completed.

HTH recently announced it was involved in one of the largest commercial real estate deals in the region. Halsey Thrasher Harpole Real Estate Group recently announced the sale of the Caraway Plaza Shopping Center in Jonesboro. At $19 million, it is believed to be the second-highest single retail real estate transaction in the market’s history behind the sale of The Mall at Turtle Creek in 2016.

Three owners — Tramontana Group I LLC, Martini-Pace LLC, and 1666 North Avalon LLC, all Delaware limited liability companies — were the sellers, while Exchange Solutions, Inc., an Arkansas LLC was the purchaser of the property. They were represented by Stanton Falk of Marcus & Millichap in Cincinnati.

Caraway Plaza, a 160,000-square-foot shopping center at the intersection of South Caraway Road and East Nettleton Avenue, is home to national retailers TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Old Navy, Natural Grocers, Rack Room Shoes, Petco and Five Below. That’s in addition to regional retailers June’s Hallmark, Merle Norman and others.

Another project that has been years in the making, Embassy Suites by Hilton and Red Wolf Convention Center, is slated to finish this month.

O’Reilly Hospitality Management anticipates that more than 25,000 guests will attend events in Red Wolf Convention Center during the first year. The all-suite hotel consists of 203 suites, an on-site restaurant, on-site catering featuring food prepared by a professionally trained chef, indoor pool and fitness center. Event and meeting space can accommodate 200 trade show booths.

The project was initially expected to cost about $60 million. That estimate is likely to rise, Embassy Suites and Red Wolf Convention Center General Manager Kraig Pomrenke previously told Talk Business & Politics. The cost for steel used in the construction of the project has risen dramatically due to the trade war with China, he said. Much, if not all, of the steel for the project was bought after the trade war started. How much it will add to the bottom line has yet to be determined, he added.

The third phase, of a four-part renovation of the St. Bernards campus will be finished this December. It involves the construction of a five-story, 245,000-square-foot surgical tower. Numerous surgery-related services, a chapel, critical care areas, and others will be housed in the tower. To build the tower, the old St. Bernards Annex had to be demolished.

Deconstructing the building was no easy task. The annex was attached to the main building at several spots, and keeping services open was difficult while the deconstruction was ongoing.

The construction site for the tower presented a number of challenges. About 5,500 truck loads of earth had to be removed from the site. Dual electrical feeds were installed and utility companies had to modify plans to meet these needs. The tower project cost about $102 million.

The $137.5 million project is expected to be completed sometime in 2020 and will increase the building space on the campus by 25% to 1.026 million square feet.

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