UA Spends Millions On Adjacent Properties (NWA Real Deals)

The University of Arkansas had a busy few weeks buying up properties on the borders of its campus.

The university paid $7.8 million to acquire about 10.95 acres on West Cato Springs Road from Biobased Realty LLC of Fayetteville in a deal that closed May 22. University officials plan to use the property for intramural fields.

The university paid Charlie’s Chicken of Fayetteville Inc. $600,000 for the restaurant building and lots at 1542 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Jeff Parker, the owner of Charlie’s Chicken, died of cancer May 28 during negotiations on the deal, which closed June 3.

The university had been trying to buy Charlie’s Chicken for years because it was a prominent piece of real estate that the school did not own between Razorback Road and Eastern Avenue.

“This particular strip of property is essentially our southern boundary,” said Mike Johnson, Arkansas’ associate vice chancellor for facilities. “We want to establish our southern boundary, and we want it to look decent, that sort of thing. We have been buying property for years on this one stretch. This was the last piece.

“We aren’t going beyond Eastern Avenue. Obviously, things could change, but we have tried to stay within some boundaries the last 10 years. We’ve talked to neighborhoods to make it clear to them that we’re not going to horizontally sprawl.”

Johnson said the Charlie’s Chicken building will be used to house three research labs for the geosciences department. He expects eight to 12 people to regularly use the facility, which he hopes to have up and running by the time the school year begins in late August.

“We will have to repurpose it,” Johnson said. “It’s in pretty good overall structural condition. We may have to replace the metal roof. We’ll probably clean it up quite a bit inside. I think we can do it fairly quickly.”

Johnson said he is working on design estimates and hopes to have those finalized within a week. He said finding space for the researchers had been a growing concern as the university continues to expand. “As we grow, space is a challenge for us,” Johnson said.

Another piece of property the university has been trying to obtain is open space for its intramural fields. That is, of course, easier said than done because the property had to be affordable and close to the university but with enough space for the intramural needs.

The land on Cato Springs Road is adjacent to South Razorback Road and is convenient for the university’s bus routes, officials said. The site has a 29,000-plus SF building on it and will have to be cleared and prepared for athletic fields, said David Martinson, the university’s associate vice chancellor for business affairs.

“We have been looking for a long time,” Martinson said. “The meager intramural fields we have are way overbooked. We have been trying to find better resources for them, and it has been difficult to find enough space.

“We’re thinking long term with it. It’s not ever going to get any cheaper.”

Martinson said he doesn’t expect the new fields to be ready until September 2015.

The university also bought several other buildings, including the Fairview Apartments at 110 N. Harmon Ave. The UA paid Kerr Investment Co. of Fayetteville $1.33 million for the apartments and a two-story building at 50 N. Harmon Ave.

The university bought four properties on North Oakland Avenue, two from the Asfahl Trust of Fayetteville, one from the Donald Roller Wilson Trust and one from the Kathleen Kay Wilson Trust. The university paid $320,000 for the two Wilson properties at 619 and 621 N. Oakland, while there was no purchase price listed for the two Asfahl properties at 620 and 622.

Martinson said the Oakland properties will be razed and used for parking in the interim until a long-term use for the lots is decided.