The Monde Group, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other officials broke ground Wednesday to begin development of a 41-acre mixed-use neighborhood along the Arkansas River between Riverview Park and Rockwater Marina in North Little Rock. It will be called the Esplanade District.
The previously announced 7-acre first phase will cost about $20 million, which includes the cost of installing a new road, Esplanade Circle, and other infrastructure.
Phase one, which is 92 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartment homes, is expected to open in early 2021.
“It’s been our dream to bring a product to market that would truly enhance people’s lives, make society better and positively impact our world. Today is the day we are making a move in this direction, as we at Monde Group introduce the Esplanade, which is a French word meaning ‘path by a river,’ drawing inspiration from the French explorers who discovered this area,” Blake Jackson, founder and managing partner of Monde Group, said at the groundbreaking. “Our vision is to create an atmosphere that will inspire your imagination, add passion to your life, and make your dreams come true.”
He said the firm began envisioning the development two years ago and decided that a mixed-use project would most complement parks to the west and residential and commercial developments to the north. The developers also decided on a “contemporary design with European ambiance;” adding courtyards with water elements, tables and seating; and installing a resort-style clubhouse and pool.
“We started a multifamily company about eight years ago, and every phase we built is quickly leased out, then we’ve gone on to the next phase,” Jackson told Arkansas Business. “And so we’ve been able to keep a pulse on the market. Ever since we started in 2012, it’s remained strong. And we continue to believe, with the First Orion [headquarters] and other growing businesses, that’ll just continue.”
Millennials are part of Monde Group’s target market, he noted, “but we want anyone who appreciates a quality lifestyle and housing to be our customers.”
“There’s a whole gambit of who those people are. Millennials, certainly, but people who like amenities you might not be able to have with a single-family house,” he said. “This product will offer that. As well as people who just don’t want to take care of a yard or anything like that.”
During his remarks, the governor called the project “a real showcase” that Arkansas could market for economic development.
“Secondly, we’re here to make sure that we continue to expand the development of opportunity zones,” Hutchinson said. “We wanted to put the opportunity zones in areas that would invite development, and, right now, 85 opportunity zones need more investment. They need more opportunity. Right here is a perfect example of investors that are wise enough to see the future and the opportunity. Thank you for making this happen here.”
That 41-acre tract is one of the largest designated as an "opportunity zone," which qualifies investors for tax incentives designed to spur jobs and development there.