Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority: Our mission continues

by Dean Gibson ([email protected]) 113 views 

As a proud board member of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA), I often find myself engaging with the community, addressing concerns, and providing updates on our progress.

Recently, a growing chorus of voices has asked why the FCRA has not yet been dissolved. While I understand the sentiment – borne from a desire to see our mission as “complete” – I must emphasize that our work is far from finished.

Regardless of the many interpretations that exists, only the FCRA has the authority to dissolve. That is a bedrock of the foundation laid out when the trust was created. I can assure you that no one within the FCRA leadership or board has the desire to continue the entity longer than it needs to be in existence. However, dissolving the authority now would be premature and counterproductive to the long-term success of Chaffee Crossing and the surrounding region.

Economic development: A marathon, not a sprint
Economic redevelopment, particularly on the scale of Chaffee Crossing, is not a short-term endeavor. Since the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision in 1995, which led to the partial decommissioning of Fort Chaffee as a military installation, our mission has been to transform this vast area into a thriving hub of economic activity. This requires not only attracting businesses but also ensuring sustainable growth that benefits the entire region.

Our efforts have yielded significant successes: thousands of jobs created, numerous businesses established, and substantial investments in infrastructure. However, economic ecosystems take time to mature. The initial work of attracting businesses is just the beginning. We must continue to foster an environment where these businesses can grow, innovate, and provide long-term stability. In fact, there are still more than 960 acres to be sold for development and still undeveloped properties that have contractual obligations to be developed.

Dean Gibson

Dissolving the FCRA unceremoniously now would jeopardize the momentum we have painstakingly built. Let me give you some examples of the FCRA work.
• $2.6 billion generated in total capital investment (over $1 billion in the past five years alone)
• More than 3,500 current direct jobs
• More than $31 million in real and personal property taxes generated since 2011
• 3,700 new residential units (built or under development)
• 895 Acres sold in the past five years (ending Dec. 31, 2023)
• 253,000 square feet of existing buildings sold in past five years (ending Dec. 31, 2023)
• Over $17 Million in property sales in past five years (ending Dec. 31, 2023)
• $7.3 million (total capital expenditures) reinvested back into the redevelopment project in the past five years (ending Dec. 31, 2023)
• Annual community events such as farmers markets, 5K’s and cycling events bring thousands of individuals to Chaffee Crossing

Infrastructure and community services: Building for the future
Infrastructure development is a critical component of our mandate. While we have made considerable progress in upgrading roads, utilities, and public services, this work is ongoing. The needs of a developing area evolve, and so must our infrastructure. Ensuring that we can meet future demands, from increased traffic to expanded utility needs, requires coordinated, careful planning and continued investment.

Ensuring a smooth transition
Let me be crystal clear; the eventual dissolution of the FCRA is a given and not off the table, but it must be approached with caution and strategic planning. We are committed to a smooth transition that ensures all our projects and responsibilities are handed off seamlessly to the beneficiaries (local governments.) This involves detailed planning and coordination, tasks that cannot be rushed without risking significant setbacks.

Our commitment to Chaffee Crossing’s future
The FCRA was established to ensure that the transition of Fort Chaffee from a military installation to a thriving civilian community was successful and sustainable. While we have made remarkable progress, our mission is not yet complete. We owe it to the surrounding communities to see our work through to its fullest potential, ensuring that Chaffee Crossing continues to grow and prosper long after the authority is dissolved.

Our commitment to this region is unwavering. By continuing our work, we ensure that Chaffee Crossing remains a beacon of economic development, environmental stewardship, and community well-being. Thank you for your understanding and support as we forge ahead in this vital mission.

Editor’s note: Dean Gibson is board chair of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Board of Trustees. The opinions expressed are those of the author.