Silver Development Co. of Little Rock has nothing to do with precious metals, but it hopes to profit as graying Arkansans look for ease and luxury living in their golden years.
The company, led by CEO Larry Crain Jr. of auto dealership fame, designs, builds, owns and operates all its projects, including a 55-and-up rental development rising in west Little Rock.
That showcase project, Chenal Village, a 188-unit high-end duplex community near the Chenal Promenade shopping center, caters to a graying but active set. And COO Jayce Jones interrupted a tour several times last week to greet residents by name.
“We’re still at the point where we know them personally,” Jones said. “That’ll be a little harder when all 188 units are complete.”
Chenal Village broke ground in early 2017, and its three phases are expected to be complete in early 2021. Silver’s previous projects include the Wellington Center shopping complex at 15400 Chenal Parkway and Ranch West Villas, a sort of mini-version of Chenal Village that Jones described as “spring training” for the current development. Ranch West’s units were sold, rather than rented, and it isn’t age-restricted.
Chenal Village, Jones said, “is an active-living community, reserved mostly for 55-and-up residents, and it’s our first very large project. We moved over 130,000 cubic yards of dirt just for Phase 1. We used to look up at Chenal Valley Drive, but we hauled so much dirt we now look down on it.”
The company has also started a large project similar to the Chenal project in northwest Arkansas, but SDC officials were not quite ready to go into details.
Crain came up with the idea, which blossomed into a $35 million investment overall, after learning the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System was selling deed-restricted property it had acquired from Deltic Timber Corp. (now PotlatchDeltic) in Chenal Valley for retirement-related developments.
“Larry took a break from the car business, and he poured a lot of thought and energy into this development,” Jones said. (Crain has since re-entered the dealership world.)
Thirty units are complete now, and all but two of those are rented. The “patio homes” range from about $2,200 to $2,900 a month, and Jones said market research pointed to a target audience of older, successful people looking for no-maintenance living with communal elements like a luxury clubhouse and heated pool. Otherwise, he said, Chenal Village is practically a single-family neighborhood.
Ranch West’s success paved the way for Chenal Village, which for nearly two years included SDC’s offices crammed into a trailer at the edge of the 38-acre construction site.
The company now operates from the 20,000-SF clubhouse, which also has a large event hall and fitness center.
Jones was obviously pleased in showing off the spacious clubhouse and duplexes, whose units are separated by a pair of two-car garages. The clubhouse is backed by a 75-foot swimming pool, a covered veranda and a small lake that collects runoff from throughout the property and feeds the sprinkler system watering the lawns.
“Our first residents moved last June, and we’ve never had a single complaint about noise from neighbors,” Jones said. “This is basically single-family living.”
Like the Ranch West Villas, each Chenal Village unit has 10-foot ceilings, oversized windows and doors, LED lighting and luxury vinyl tile with the look of wood flooring. There are both walk-in showers and soaker bathtubs, and in a rarity for community developments, natural gas stoves and tankless water heaters.
The units have seamless granite kitchen counters and premium stainless steel appliances, as well as smart-home amenities like digital security systems, door locks and thermostats residents can control through smartphones.
The project’s energy features — the streetlights are even LED — led to a happy collaboration with Centerpoint Energy, the natural gas provider.
Centerpoint Energy Efficiency Consultant Kirk Pierce said Chenal Village’s power-saving approach, specifically the 95%-efficicient HVAC systems and tankless water heaters, helped it qualify for rebates on gas installation amounting to $1,500 per unit.
“We worked with the staff, contract plumbers and others to make sure everybody was on board getting natural gas in, and getting the paperwork done for the rebates,” Pierce said. “Natural gas is an efficient and affordable energy source, and the rebates helped to leverage this project.”
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Jones sees gas as an added amenity. “People have a good opinion of natural gas, cooks prefer it over electric stoves, and it’s clean burning and good for the carbon footprint.”
Each unit has four gas outlets: to the high-efficiency furnaces, water heaters, Frigidaire luxury stoves and to the patios for ease in installing gas grills. Pierce said he hopes Chenal Village might inspire other builders to consider natural gas. “Multifamily has always been a challenge for natural gas, so we’re happy to be featured in this property,” Pierce said. “We are at least hoping to open some conversations with developers.”
Jones emphasized that Silver, which has about 10 employees, isn’t just a residential developer. “We’re a full-service general contractor” building turnkey commercial and residential projects, he said. SDC built the Red Robin restaurant locations that opened last year in Conway and Benton, coordinating “every aspect from ideal site location, purchase of materials, all areas of construction, even down to the acquisition of kitchen equipment.”