Troubled Midtown Bryant Project Positioned for a Restart


With the return of lot transactions to the Midtown Bryant project following the 2010 conviction of one of its developers, Aaron Jones, for arson, new home construction is now being seen as a slice of Seaside in Saline County.
With the return of lot transactions to the Midtown Bryant project following the 2010 conviction of one of its developers, Aaron Jones, for arson, new home construction is now being seen as a slice of Seaside in Saline County.

Midtown Bryant is close to achieving escape velocity from years of financial and legal entanglements that have hindered progress on the visionary real estate project. Action in Saline County Circuit Court is on the brink of freeing 89 residential lots for sale and restarting new home construction in the largely dormant development.

“We’re in the process of getting a judge to sign off on an order allowing us to sell the developed lots,” said Scott Hurley, commissioner of the Municipal Property Owners’ Multipurpose Improvement District No. 84. “I think we’ll have that done soon, maybe in the next 30-45 days.”

Midtown Bryant’s special improvement district recovered the lots as part of a $2.7 million foreclosure auction on June 20. The bid reflects delinquent payments owed on the $6.8 million bond issue by TND Developers LLC to fund Midtown Bryant.

The foreclosure transaction included undeveloped land totaling about 160 acres. The future of the raw land is clouded by an appeal contesting the foreclosure auction. Previous owners still owed money for selling property for the project, and creditors of TND Developers hope to gain control of the acreage.

Aaron Jones launched Midtown Bryant 10 years ago through his TND Developers. The project was the brainchild of Jones, who gained notoriety for the arson of his million-dollar home in west Little Rock on May 30, 2008.

The jury didn’t buy his wild story of surviving a murder attempt by gun-toting, fire-starting intruders who allegedly bound him hand and foot with duct tape and left him to die in the blaze.

On Dec. 10, 2010, Jones was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for torching his family’s 5,757-SF Chenal Circle home. His financial woes, thought to have motivated the arson, also afflicted Midtown.

Only a handful of clapboard-sided homes painted from a palette of pastels were built before the project ground to a halt. The look of Midtown Bryant was intended to capture the architectural vibe of Little Rock’s Hillcrest area with a touch of Seaside, Florida.

“My wife and I vacationed in Seaside,” said Jerry Henson, Bryant alderman. “That’s what this development was about when it started. We built a house right outside the gates of Midtown. I was going to sell my house and move in there.”

Henson said one of the planks in his campaign for Bryant City Council was to protect the original vision of the development. He hopes the languishing project gains new life.

“I’m all for Midtown,” he said, “as long as it’s done the way it was sold to the citizens. It’s such an opportunity for the city of Bryant. It’s just lying there rotting. It may be the most expensive property in Saline County.”

With the ownership picture clearing up, Scott Hurley, Butch Lomax and Graham Smith hope to get Midtown Bryant moving again.

“We are not interested in a concept other than what was originally proposed,” Hurley said.

Getting the project’s road network in shape to meet city standards is another issue confronting the second go at development. Resolving this could be a prerequisite before building permits are forthcoming for home construction.

Also, the improvement bonds are in default, and a Chapter 9 bankruptcy reorganization could be in order to accomplish a fiscal renovation of Midtown Bryant. Bondholders likely won’t be made whole, but lot sales will bring in some money.

“It will be cents on the dollar, but the lots have value,” Hurley said. “If the improvement district is awarded ownership of the undeveloped land, it could be 80 cents on the dollar.”