After developer change, Transplace building in Rogers finally ready to start construction

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 4,430 views 

When Texas-based Transplace announced in March a new $46 million Northwest Arkansas operations center along Interstate 49 in Rogers, a press release issued by the company included this sentence: “Construction on the new facility is set to begin immediately, and Transplace is expected to move in by early 2021.”

It was a significant announcement, complete with a ceremonial groundbreaking that included the governor, the mayor and other state and local economic development officials.

Eight months later, construction still hasn’t started. The three-story building is still planned — city officials have already approved the development plan — but there has been one significant change.

HCH Consulting, led by Rogers developer Hunter Haynes, has conveyed the land and development rights for the 148,000-square-foot building to Cawley Partners, a major player in the Dallas-Fort Worth development scene. The land, part of the 100-acre Magnolia Farms addition, changed hands Oct. 21 for $5.7 million, according to county real estate records. It’s now owned by a limited partnership led by Cawley Partners. That purchase price equals $7.18 per square foot.

The approximately 15-acre site is south of the Cedar Brook neighborhood on the recently built Magnolia Street, a new east-west artery that now crosses over Interstate 49 and connects to South 52nd St.

When the project is finished, Cawley Partners will own the building. It will still be leased to Transplace, one of the country’s largest providers of third-party logistics services, with customers including Inc. and Walmart Inc. Transplace, based in Frisco, Texas, manages day-to-day shipping operations for retailers, manufacturers and other companies, and provides logistics technology, consulting and freight brokerage services.

In Northwest Arkansas, Transplace is now based at 509 Enterprise Drive, just off Interstate 49 in Lowell, where it employs about 600 workers in approximately 80,000 square feet of office space.

The move to Rogers — into what the company refers to internally as a Center of Excellence (COE) — is expected to increase the number of workers in Northwest Arkansas to between 1,100 and 1,200, with an estimated $60 million in payroll.

Cawley Partners declined an interview request from the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, deferring instead to Transplace.

“We just had some changes that we wanted to make to some of the services that we wanted and some of our requirements,” Tracy Rosser said when asked how the change in developer came about. Rosser was hired in May as the executive vice president of operations for Transplace. “We’re with a developer we think can meet our needs and we’re ready to roll.”

Rosser, who retired from Walmart in February, said construction is imminent and the building is still on track to be finished by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Rosser said it’s his understanding that $46 million in industrial revenue bonds issued by the city of Rogers to the original building developer have also conveyed to Cawley Partners. A Transplace spokeswoman said all vendors are the same with respect to the design build-out.

Companies included in the March announcement were Baldwin & Shell Construction in Rogers (general contractor), Dallas-based Corgan (interior architect) and Silas Seger, owner of Seger Architecture in Wisconsin (building designer).

As the largest managed transportation service provider in North America, Transplace generates gross revenue in excess of $3 billion from more than 1,000 customers.

Haynes does remain involved in the Magnolia Farms development. The Transplace land was part of a 45-acre tract owned by EF Capital Management, an alternative asset manager based in The Woodlands, Texas. EF Capital acquired the land, and an adjoining 39-acre tract to the east across South Promenade Boulevard, five years ago. It was an all-cash deal worth $8.3 million.

EF Capital acquired the land for Arkansas native Meg Molleston, a lawyer by trade and executive with GeoSouthern Energy Corp., one of the largest independent oil and gas producing companies in the country. It also is headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas.

Haynes is developing the property for the investor.

“It was a pleasure working with the Transplace team throughout the process,” he said. “We are excited to have Cawley Partners as an owner-developer at [Magnolia] Farms. It’s a testament to the marketplace of Northwest Arkansas and what it has become.”