Conway, Developer to Rework Airport Site As Shopping Hub by 2017

The Conway Development Corporation and Jim Wilson Associates of Montgomery, Ala., announced plans Thursday to redevelop the site of the city's old airport for restaurants, retail and hotels.

The plan, described as "the largest project in the city's history," calls for the CDC and Wilson to jointly redevelop the Conway Municipal Airport's more than 150 acres of commercial real estate by 2017.

Located in the center of town between Interstate 40 and Harkrider Avenue, the project, called Central Landing, is expected to create an additional $2 billion in retail sales and $34 million in additional sales tax collections for the city over a 10-year period.

"Together, with the CDC, we have an exciting new vision for the former airport site," Wilson said in a prepared statement. "We have a 40-year history in the commercial real estate business. It has been perfect preparation for a project just like this one. Conway is a great place, a vibrant town; we see great potential here."

Wilson said the project has the potential to "solidify Conway’s position as a regional shopping destination" and spur redevelopment in aging commercial areas.

More: Download a larger look at Central Landing's site plan (PDF).

Site plans unveiled at the announcement show a shopping center anchored by large retail stores and a mix of specialty stores, restaurants, offices and multifamily properties. The retail phase of the project will be up to 750,000 SF.

"This project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community," Conway Development Corporation President Brad Lacy said. "The scale, quality and variety of development Central Landing brings to Conway will truly set us apart."

On Tuesday, the Conway City Council approved up to $18 million for street infrastructure improvements for the project, according to the Log Cabin Democrat.

Conway is winding down operations at the airport and building a new $30 million airport in the Lollie Bottoms area in the southwest corner of the city. With its central location near a major interstate and railroad tracks, the current airport is landlocked, and its runway is too short.

The new airport, set to open in August, will include a longer, 6,000-foot runway and is located on a 180-acre site that can accommodate neighboring aviation and commercial needs.

Jim Wilson & Associates is a real estate services and management company that has developed shopping malls, condominiums, hotels, office buildings, business parks and residential communities. It has projects in Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.

In 1998, the company bought a 95-acre tract at the southwest corner of Interstate 430 and Shackleford Road for $11 million. It planned to build a mall known as The Summit at Little Rock, but the project never materializedWilson encountered financial problems and forfeited the property in lieu of foreclosure in 1991. Ultimately, the land became the site of the Shackleford Crossings shopping center.