Arkansas Colleges of Health Education seeks to buy more land from Chaffee Trust

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,161 views 

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority’s real estate review committee approved a request by Arkansas Colleges of Health Education to purchase 77 acres located on the corner of Roberts and Chad Colley boulevards in Chaffee Crossing for $1 million.

The property is just south of the college’s main campus and abuts 68 acres FCRA conveyed to the colleges in 2019 for trails that connect to the college’s Celebration Park. The approval came during the authority’s committee meeting held Thursday (March 11).

Kyle Parker, ACHE CEO, said after the property is purchased, ACHE would have to go before the Fort Smith Planning Commission to have it made part of the planned zoning district (PZD) of the property connected to it. He said he sees the property used for commercial/light industrial in the front and residential in the back.

Only about 38.4 acres of the tract is able to be developed. Parker said they looked at the property in 2015 and because of a major drainage system within the tract, it would cost about $1 million just to purchase credits from the Corps of Engineers to try to make the land developable. Parker said he would not say ACHE would never attempt to develop those remaining approximately 38 acres, but he does not anticipate that development occurring during his tenure with the colleges.

“To invest that money type of money into developing that property, you would need to have a major reason to do so. It would cost about $80,000 to $100,000 an acre to do that. So you would have to have something substantial that would justify that type of cost,” Parker said.

Instead, he foresees using the property for the wellbeing of the students, extending the trail system ACHE is constructing as part of Celebration Park.

“My belief is that we are just going to extend the trails and probably bring that up, in a safe manner, to those (utility) ditches. So that we can in essence create a loop as part of that trail system,” Parker said. “I think that is a good use for it.”

That trail system will be part of the Fort Smith master trail system, he added.

The sale of the land will go before the FCRA board of directors at its monthly meeting March 18.

ACHE is expecting to have an additional 500,000 square feet either being renovated or built new this year, Parker said. ACHE has built about 700,000 square feet so far, so this year’s construction will almost double the colleges’ footprint, he said.

Those new square feet include the 120,000 square feet of renovation to Golden Living’s former headquarters building in Fort Smith, which the colleges purchased in 2020 to create national models for health and wellness instruction and medical research. That renovation has already begun, he said.

Golden Living-affiliated companies will continue to lease the second and third floors of that building. The first floor will house a health and wellness center, and the fourth and fifth floors will be used for the research facility. The fifth floor also could be used for offices, Parker said.

“It’s incredibly exciting what we are doing right now,” Parker said.