ASU Negotiating with Firm for Hotel, Convention Center

by Lee Hogan  on Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 9:54 am  

Arkansas State University said Tuesday that it is negotiating with Jonesboro Hotel and Convention Center LLC of Effingham, Ill., to build the proposed hotel and convention center at the university’s Jonesboro campus.

Jeff Hankins, university vice president for strategic communications and economic development, said a university committee recommended Jonesboro Hotel's proposal after reviewing it and another from Wallace Bajjali Development LP of Sugar Land, Texas, a real estate investment and consulting firm.

The Jonesboro proposal calls for a 150-plus room "luxury select service hotel" and identifies Hyatt Place as its proposed brand. The proposal includes a 30,000-SF convention center and a 45,000-SF exhibit hall.

No financial information has been released on the project, "because it's considered proprietary information by the developers," Hankins said. Negotiations started in late February.

The Jonesboro Hotel and Convention Center LLC, led by the Keller family of Effingham, Ill., was formed for this project, Hankins said, and is associated with Jerry Halsey, of Halsey Real Estate Inc. in Jonesboro.

"If no agreement is reached to recommend to the Board of Trustees, then the university reserves the right to negotiate with Bajjali Development, re-open the selection process, or decide not to pursue the project," Hankins said in an email to Arkansas Business.

The Wallace Bajjali proposal included a 150-bed hotel and up to 75,000-SF of convention and meeting space. No specific hotel brand was identified, but Hilton, Holiday Inn and Wyndham were mentioned as having existing relationships with the firm.

Plans from both construction firms include classroom space and internships for the university's proposed hospitality management degree program.

Hankins said the university continues to consider a public-private partnership to develop the hotel and convention center.

Arkansas Business first reported Arkansas State was exploring the on-campus hotel and convention center in December. Arkansas State received the two proposals the same week.

The preferred site for the hotel and convention center lies between Red Wolf Boulevard, or U.S. 49, and Olympic Drive on 11 acres where the track and field complex was previously located. The site is surrounded by Liberty Bank Stadium, the Convocation center and the Fowler Center.



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