UPDATED: Arvest to Buy WLR Target Store, Add Employees

Arvest Bank formally announced today its plans to purchase the west Little Rock Target building for $3.5 million and hire more than 300 employees over the next three to five years.

Arvest officials said the bank group will spend $2 million to renovate the 80,000-SF building, which will house Central Mortgage, a bank subsidiary that currently employs about 50.

On May 12, Arkansas Business' "Whispers" column reported that Arvest would buy the 10.5-acre property at 801 John Barrow Road from the Doyle Rogers Co.

Arvest Bank Operations closed on the property on June 16, which includes the former Target store and an additional building that currently houses the state Department of Finance and Administration and several small businesses.

The bank also will continue leasing out the neighboring building.

Construction is set to begin by August and be complete in the first quarter of 2004.

According to calculations made by the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the annual economic impact of the new jobs is expected to be at least $67 million within three years, including a $10 million payroll.

Bill Roehrenbeck, president and chief executive officer of Central Mortgage, said the company recently contracted to handle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage accounts, increasing Central's need for space.

Arvest Bank of Fayetteville has been the largest bank in Arkansas by every measure since 2002, when it combined 14 charters in three states into the former McIlroy Bank & Trust charter in Fayetteville, the oldest charter in Arkansas.

As of March 31, Arvest had assets of $4.9 billion and deposits of $4.3 billion.

Arvest is controlled by Jim Walton, one of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton's four children. The bank holding company has branches in Arkansas, Oklahoma and southern Missouri. Arvest established a presence in Little Rock through its purchase of Central Bank & Trust of Little Rock in 2001.

In May, Arvest announced that it would acquire Superior Financial Corp. of Fort Smith for $211 million.