South Yard takes shape in Fayetteville

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 3,128 views 

Kaitlyn Fondano, director of development for Specialized Real Estate Group, and CEO Jeremy Hudson. South Yard is a mixed-use project of the Fayetteville developer. (Photo by Ashley Kelsey)

The $63 million South Yard development that’s opening in stages will include 128 apartments, multiple restaurants and a seven-story hotel when completed in late 2024. Area business owners expect it to contribute to the revitalization of south Fayetteville.

The 194,643-square-foot mixed-use development at U.S. Highway 71B and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is a project of Fayetteville developer Specialized Real Estate Group (SREG).

“We consider walkability and neighborhood connectedness in every development we take on,” said Kaitlyn Fondano, the company’s director of development. “In South Yard’s case, the location is right on the Razorback Greenway and within walking distance to parks and the Fayetteville square. By adding residents to downtown areas, we are able to support existing businesses and encourage small business development. South Yard will be an extension of the Cultural Arts Corridor. It will be an entertainment district of its own, adding more commercial and entertainment opportunities to the south Fayetteville neighborhood.”

The development’s total square footage includes 110,445 for multifamily, 55,994 for the hotel and 28,204 for commercial space. So far, the restaurants set to open there in the second quarter of 2023 include Memphis, Tenn.-based Central BBQ, Fayetteville Taco & Tamale and The Meteor cafe.

In July, Central BBQ announced its eighth location would open in early 2023 as its first Arkansas location. In August, Little Rock-based hospitality company Yellow Rocket Concepts announced that the Fayetteville Taco & Tamale would open at South Yard in spring 2023. Yellow Rocket Concepts has similar locations in Little Rock and Bentonville. The Meteor, an all-day cafe and bike shop, also is expected to open there in spring 2023. The Meteor has locations in Austin, Texas, and Bentonville.

“We have been very intentional in making South Yard a neighborhood that inspires people to connect with nature and neighbors,” said Jeremy Hudson, CEO of Specialized Real Estate Group. “South Yard is located next to one of the most heavily traveled areas on the Razorback Greenway and just a block from Fayetteville’s Cultural Arts Corridor.”

The development will reuse four existing buildings formerly occupied by Farmers Cooperative. Fondano said the restaurants and the hotel lobby comprise the repurposed space. Two other spots are available to lease in the space. Other amenities on the 9-acre development include a dog park, community garden, private working pods and a 1.25-acre park that will be built south of the Razorback Greenway.

Fondano said groundbreaking for the park will take place in the coming weeks and should be completed by the second quarter of 2023. The dog park is open and available to residents, and the community garden will open after the other buildings are completed. The working pods are inside the leasing office and club of building No. 1 and available to residents.

“Specialized is committed to building healthy spaces,” she said. “We believe that by putting people within reach of services, workplaces and transportation infrastructure like bike paths, we are helping to create a healthier community. Additionally, the South Yard development was able to preserve the place the Farmers Coop called home for almost 30 years.”

Construction on the 131-room hotel is expected to start in early 2023 and is slated to be completed in the third quarter of 2024. The hotel construction will take about 18 months to complete and will be the last phase of South Yard to open, Fondano said. The hotel brand is expected to be announced before construction starts early next year. The hotel brand is currently negotiating the lease agreement.

South Yard opened to residents on Aug. 15, and its existing 43 apartments are leased.

South Yard opened to residents on Aug. 15, and its existing 43 apartments are leased. Additional units will be available as construction nears completion, Fondano said. Including the SREG office, 80% of the commercial space has been leased, up from 40% in May.

“Our goal is always to be a value-add to the neighborhood with our developments,” Fondano said. “Housing is in demand in south Fayetteville, but we didn’t want to add housing to an area without context. The addition of commercial space, restaurants and bars, and hospitality allows us to placemake in an area of Fayetteville that has been historically underserved in terms of amenities. South Yard allows us to take advantage of the existing trail infrastructure so our residents and neighbors can access new services.”

Lee Porter, the owner of Ozark Green Roofs, has lived in south Fayetteville for 11 years after moving to Northwest Arkansas for college in 2006. Her home and office are close to South Yard.

“I’m excited about it, not just as a business owner in south Fayetteville but as someone who uses the trails all the time,” she said. “I think it’s going to change the way that creek and trail corridor feel.”

She explained that it would enliven a previously hidden creek area. The Razorback Greenway wraps around the south and west sides of the development and connects to the Tsa-La-Gi Trail on the west side.

“It will feel safer down there, and I think it will bring it to life to have something active on the other side, like apartments, shops and food,” she said. “I’m excited about The Meteor cafe going in there.”

Initially, she was concerned that it would be too big. But she said the apartments will be suitable for working professionals to live in amid rising rent and home prices. She also likes how the development is reusing existing buildings and upgrading them.

“I think it’s going to be cool for south Fayetteville,” Porter said. “South Fayetteville’s really changing now.”

Also, Porter expects South Yard to spur other area projects and gives credit to the mixed-use development Mill District, north of South Yard, as a driver for its growth.

Cat Brown, the owner of floral design studio Earth & Thorn, also lives and works near South Yard. She’s lived in south Fayetteville for five years and in the area for almost 13 years. She previously lived in Little Rock.

“I think the development opportunities in south Fayetteville are fantastic,” Brown said. “I feel like south Fayetteville is often overlooked for how great it is.

“I think there are a lot of local artisans who live in this area who bring a lot of Fayetteville culture to the town,” she added. “I hope that south Fayetteville becomes more of an extension of…downtown or south downtown and that Fayetteville starts to see what a gem this little pocket of Fayetteville is.”

Roman Villasana, co-owner of Swoon Juice Bar in Fayetteville, expects South Yard to spur more development to its south. He sees the new development as a positive for the area and that it will blend in. The Dallas native said he moved to Fayetteville nearly two years ago and will soon open a third location in Johnson. Swoon Juice Bar on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is just west of South Yard and was his first in Fayetteville. He said he wanted to be established there as the area is developed.