Bentonville's Fountain Plaza Touted as NWA 'Oasis in a Desert of Failed Dreams'

by George Waldon  on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010 12:00 am  

Jeannie Fleeman, owner of Fountain Plaza: "an oasis in the desert of failed dreams" in northwest Arkansas.

'It Couldn't Keep Going'

Jeannie Fleeman is ready to develop more buildings after a four-year hiatus now that the market has settled down. That decision to halt development activity dates back to a 2006 staff meeting where she announced:

"Guys, everything is booming so much around here, and it's overpriced and I can't see it going on. My vote, and I suppose it counts the most, but I think we ought to stop for a while and see what happens."

The cautionary pronouncement was made in the face of a northwest Arkansas real estate market that was still surging, with no apparent end in sight.

"That was such a strange phenomenon, and I just knew it couldn't keep going on," Jeannie Fleeman said. "People thought I was crazy to stop at the time.

"There are a lot of people who wonder why I am still in business and they're not. It's because I didn't push the envelope."

Fleeman said the timing of her decision to curtail development activity was similar to when Bill Fleeman opted to shut down their homebuilding business, Dynamic Enterprises, more than 30 years ago.

That move was made ahead of inflation-fueled interest rates that went ballistic and scorched the business landscape.

"I had the feeling the same as Bill did back then: It just can't keep going on," she said of the good times. "I thought everybody just seems to be in this fairy tale, and it can't go on. And it didn't.

"I'm just grateful I'm not a statistic. I was in a position where I could stop because I wasn't leveraged. I was very fortunate, and my heart goes out to people who weren't able to survive this."

ANB Stockholder

Fleeman was a big stockholder in ANB Financial, where Bill helped fund the startup and served as a director. Unlike many people associated with the fast-track lender, she emerged relatively unscathed when the $1.9 billion-asset institution was shut down by federal regulators in May 2008.



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