UPDATE: Bass Pro Plans Store at Gateway Town Center in Little Rock

Little Rock developer Tommy Hodges has cast his line again and landed the big fish.

Bass Pro Shops, an outdoor supplies retailer, announced Friday that it will be part of  Hodges' southwest Little Rock retail development, Gateway Town Center. 

"We have reached a firm agreement and will start infrastructure work later this summer with the new 120,000-SF store, expected to open in time for Christmas next year," Hodges said in a Bass Pro Shops news release. "I am just as pleased and excited as I can be because I feel there is no other retailer in America like Bass Pro Shops."

The retailer said the store "will attract tourists and travelers with its convenient location and will initially generate at least 250 jobs."

Hodges' Gateway Town Center is planned for a 169-acre site off Interstate 30 and Interstate 430 at Otter Creek. That land has been the site of various proposed developments through the years, and at one point was the proposed site for the 120-acre Otter Creek Mall.

In an interview with ArkansasBusiness.com, Hodges said Bass Pro will build its Little Rock store with private money -- an approach different from previous development attempts that anticipated public money and government incentives, as had worked for Bass Pro Shops in different markets.

The Bass Pro Shops will occupy 30 acres of the development. An "upscale outlet mall" is planned for another 30 acres of the site. The mall will follow about a year behind the opening of the Bass Pro Shops, he said.

Hodges said the timing was finally "just right" for Bass Pro to build a store in Arkansas, a state he said is "noticeably absent" from the outdoor and hunting supply retailer's footprint.

Hodges said 100,000 cars per day drive by the Gateway site, making the area a key regional destination that will draw customers from at least 50 miles away. 

"We have been hoping for a store in Little Rock for a long time and, thanks to Tommy Hodges we believe we have found the best location possible," Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, said in a news release.

"We are very excited to bring Bass Pro Shops to Little Rock and committed to give our long time customers an unforgettable shopping experience at our newest generation store which will be located next to a beautiful 5-acre lake."

Another Go-Round

The Gateway Town Center marks the latest attempt by a central Arkansas real estate developers to lure Bass Pro Shops to the region.

In 2003, Belz-Burrow Development Group announced plans to develop what was originally billed as an $80 million retail complex on a swath of wetlands on the south side of Interstate 40 near the Lakewood exit in North Little Rock.

The 71-acre Shoppes at North Hills was to host a 850,000-SF upscale shopping center, a multiscreen cinema complex and a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store.

The project was scheduled to be complete in fall 2004, with other phases of the development complete by spring 2005. But developers scuttled the project after tangling with environmentalists over redeveloping the wetlands. 

The project also drew controversy over the developers' request for tax increment financing assistance. TIF reroutes increased property taxes from new development back to the developers rather than to schools and city government. Some observers decried what they considered the misuse of tax money, and Bass Pro's competing retailers objected to what they considered an unfair subsidy.

Hodges had already angled for the Bass Pro before Belz-Burrow announced their plans. His proposal would have given Bass Pro land for the store at the Gateway Town Center site, provided the state deliver a fitting package of tax incentives.

Shane Broadway, then a state senator from Bryant, introduced a bill in the Arkansas Legisture to give certain retailers the type of sales tax credits previously available only to tourist attractions, but the bill stalled in committee. 


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