Josh Brown remembers waiting at a stoplight in Jonesboro at 6:30 a.m. back on June 2 when a moment of inspiration hit.
Brown was looking at the long-vacant Coca-Cola bottling plant at the southwest corner of Caraway Road and Highland Drive. The nearly 7-acre location is prime, but the $3.5 million price tag meant the 55,000-SF building would have to be part of the equation to work.
Brown thought of someone who might embrace an unusual retail redevelopment: Monte and Terry Hays, co-owners of Hays Clothing in Searcy and Judsonia.
He contacted them and wheels were put in motion. The Hays brothers came to town, looked at the property later that day and were captivated.
“We really liked the location, but we fell in love with this old building,” said Terry Hays.
The next week, an architect checked out the bottling plant, which had sat dormant since 2008, and confirmed the feasibility of their redevelopment plans. The property was put under contract on July 12 and the deal closed on Aug. 7.
Brown, co-owner of Jonesboro’s Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate & Development, remains awestruck by the speed of events.
“We went from a phone call to opening in less than six months,” he said.
Subcontractors are racing to transform the industrial building into a super store for the Hays brothers in time to be up and running before Black Friday on Nov. 27.
“We’re real close,” Terry Hays said on Thursday. “We have had some crews working till midnight. We’re basically working around the clock.”
The $2 million redevelopment at 2215 E. Highland Drive contributed to a tally of commercial construction in Jonesboro that topped $66 million through the first nine months of 2015. That pace is trailing the $101 million total for 2014.
Several new projects and redevelopments along its thoroughfares are simmering and expected to add to next year’s total.
Zimmer Development Co. of Wilmington, North Carolina, obtained the necessary zoning in October to move ahead with plans for its University Woods collegiate housing project.
The two-phase development is slated for a 15-acre site on the edge of the Arkansas State University campus, on the north side of East Johnson Avenue across from University Loop Road.
Zimmer plans to launch University Woods with a six-building, 432-bed first phase followed by four buildings with 290 beds. The development is touted as a $20 million project in the works.
Less than 3 miles to the east, site and utilities work is complete for a 16-screen project by Cinema Management Group Inc. of Memphis.
The location near 5508 U.S. 49 is part of a 10.5-acre tract acquired for $1.75 million in February 2014. Next year, paving and cinema construction could join the already installed parking lot lights.
The theater project will more than double the number of screens in Jonesboro, where the Malco Hollywood 12 is the lone movie theater option.
Back on the northern edge of the ASU campus, some land clearing has visited the 200-acre site of the planned Greensborough Village Town Center.
The mixed-use development, backed by Mickey Seeman and John Conner Jr., is championed by the Jonesboro commercial realty firm of Halsey Thrasher Harpole.
No projects have surfaced to fill in the master plan for commercial and residential development. The property at the northwest corner of U.S. 49 and Highway 351 was purchased for $5.5 million in November 2013.
Adjoining the Greensborough land to the west along U.S. 49 is a 26-acre tract owned by Arkansas State University. It too is envisioned for mixed-use development. Haag Brown Commercial is putting together a proposal for consideration that includes retail on the ground floor and condominiums on the upper floors.
The layout could include 30 condos per building, with two to four buildings possible.
“We’re reviewing costs and hopefully prior to the end of the year, it will go before the board at ASU for a decision,” said Josh Brown.
ASU land also has drawn interest for outparcel developments for a bank branch, restaurants and a pharmacy.
About 2.5 miles south on Red Wolf Boulevard, the 60,000-SF Highland Center is undergoing a makeover and relaunch as The Highlands. The project at 2810 E. Highland Drive will entail expanding the 5.7-acre project to 7 acres and reshuffling the current tenant of 14 small shops.
“We’d like to get that down to seven tenants,” said Brown, whose firm is working with the new owners of the property.
G&P Developments Inc., led by Jian Pan, Lan Guo and Huie Yang, acquired Highland Center for $5.5 million in July as part of a tenant-turned-owner deal.
Pan owns Fuji Japanese Steakhouse, which calls the center home.