The Conway Chamber of Commerce gave hundreds of local residents a glimpse into the future of the city, and two proposed retail projects that could shape it into a regional shopping hub.
Residents of Conway have already had their appetites whetted with the coming of Sam’s Club to the Lewis Crossing shopping center, which is being developed by Collett & Associates LLC of Charlotte, North Carolina.
A site plan on display Tuesday night showed a 135,500-SF Sam’s Club that anchored the shopping center. David Elrod, a real estate agent for Collett, said Academy Sports, Ross Dress for Less, Bed Bath & Beyond, Petco, Ulta and Dollar Tree have signed leases at Lewis Crossing.
Elrod said talks are underway with several other stores, and added several restaurants are interested, as well.
As previously reported by Arkansas Business, a preliminary site plan also showed Altar’d State, Jos. A Banks, Chico’s, Forever 21 and Carter’s. The project could begin as early as this summer if the site plan review, replatting and building code review is completed.
A spokesperson for Sam’s Club told Arkansas Business in May that the store hopes to open in Conway in early 2016.
Less than a mile away, the Conway Development Corp. and Jim Wilson & Associates LLC of Montgomery, Alabama, have dreams of redeveloping the 151-acre municipal airport of Conway into a 750,000-SF mixed-use development, dubbed Central Landing. The $100 million project is hoped to contain everything from shopping to restaurants, and housing and office space.
Jim Wilson III, chairman and CEO of the development company, announced Tuesday night that Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock has signed a lease to come to Central Landing.
Dillard's confirmed the news in a news release Wednesday morning that stated it would be the anchor for Central Landing's first phase, the Shoppes at Central Landing. The 250,000-SF center will feature a 100,000-SF Dillard's and more than 40 other stores and restaurants.
This will be Dillard's ninth location in its home state.
"Conway is an established community and we look forward to serving this growing market that already knows Dillard's as the hometown fashion destination," Bill Dillard II, CEO, said in the news release.
Dillard said the Conway location would "feature the company's latest advances in store design and construction."
Woody Rush, senior vice president of leasing for Wilson & Associates, did not reveal any other tenants for Central Landing, but said there are several negotiations going on. Rush said Wilson & Associates hoped to bring shops and restaurants like its development in Collierville, Tennessee, Carriage Crossing. That shopping center includes shops and restaurants like Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Buckle, Claires, GNC, Gymboree, Lane Bryant, Macy’s, Yankee Candle, Bonefish Grill, Milano’s Pizza, Red Robin and Victoria’s Secret.
Speaking with Arkansas Business after the town hall meeting, Wilson said his company was attracted to Conway because of the area's economy and the lack of retail development north of Little Rock.
“Once we started doing our research and started talking to some friends in the area, the excitement about Conway, grew and grew and grew,” Wilson said. “We said in the beginning, I don’t know of another airport site that has been decommissioned and been located next to an interstate that we can get access to, and then have great access around us. The more we got into Conway, and the more we looked at the demographics, the per capita income, the schools, the accessibility to other communities in the area, the more we liked it.”
Wilson said his company’s estimates put the proposed shopping center in a market population of 400,000.
“Instead of someone having to go to Little Rock, or coming from north of here going past Conway, they’ll stop,” he said. “Because there are going to be a lot more opportunities with the Sam’s Club development and what we bring to the area. It will be very complimentary of each other.”
Wilson said he had dates in mind for when Central Landing could open, but did not delve into specifics, citing the upcoming Sept. 9 special election that will decide whether or not bonds will be rededicated to fund various road projects tied to both Central Landing and Lewis Crossing.
The Wilson & Associates website has a projected open date of spring 2016.
On Sept. 9, Conway voters will decide whether or not a 1/8-cent sales tax will be rededicated to be used for bonds that will pay for road improvements key to the shopping centers.
Voters will vote on the issuance of refunding bonds, not to exceed $7.5 million, and the issuance of capital improvement bonds, not to exceed $21 million.
The capital improvement bonds would pay for projects like an overpass across Interstate 40 that would connect the Conway Commons with Central Landing, create a boulevard connection from Oak Street to Central Landing and replace stoplights at Dave Ward Drive and Amity Road near Lewis Crossing with roundabouts, among other projects.
The Log Cabin Democrat reported in February that the City of Conway is contractually-obligated to provide four-lane access from Central Landing to Oak and Harkrider streets, by 2017.
If approved, the estimated bond payoff date is 2044.