A residential-heavy project is expected to kick off a new round of mixed-use development in downtown North Little Rock. Roger Coburn Jr. has already invested nearly $2 million to buy land and set the stage for construction to begin before summer.
The opening phase will encompass a 13-unit apartment building with space targeted for a ground-floor restaurant and three neighboring townhomes that will be marketed for sale.
“That’s key,” said Coburn, a local developer. “We want ownership.”
Each of the three-story townhomes will sport a third-floor deck and have a total living area of 1,800-2,000 SF. Parking for townhome and apartment residents on the interior of the property is on the drawing board with additional street parking for visitors and restaurant patrons and an eye toward a layout that accommodates outdoor dining.
“Everything we have in mind for a destination restaurant is to bring the inside out,” said Fletcher Hanson III, Coburn’s real estate adviser and principal at Newmark Moses Tucker Partners.
The project at the northwest corner of Sixth and Olive streets is envisioned as the first in a series to expand the residential opportunities and amenities of the Argenta neighborhood and plug into its employment base growth.
“Argenta has achieved a sort of critical mass,” said Alan New, partner at Taggart Architects, which is handling the design work for Coburn.
The North Little Rock firm had a hand in designing several prominent Argenta projects such as the 72,000-SF First Orion Building at 520 Main St., the 8,925-SF Argenta Community Theater at 405 Main St. and the 25,000-SF 600 Main Building it calls home.
Taggart Architects has masterplanned the redevelopment possibilities on the bulk of Coburn’s Argenta property as well as the holdings divided among 18 different owners totaling more than 5.4 acres.
“We want this to be urbanist, with buildings set to the curbs, with two- and three-story walk-ups and pocket parks,” said New. “It’s just a neighborhood we think is going to attract college kids to live and work after they graduate.”
For now, Coburn’s initial project bears the name of its street corner location at Sixth and Olive. The 0.4-acre development is planned for the only two parcels he owns on the block bound by Bishop Lindsey Avenue and Olive, Sixth and Magnolia streets.
The site is part of a patchwork of 44 parcels that Coburn assembled last year in a dormant section of the Argenta neighborhood where he intends to build a string of new projects.
All told, he owns more than 6 acres scattered across parts of nine blocks west of Interstate 30 and east of Main Street between Sixth and 10th streets. The area is dominated by vacant lots that once housed churches and more homes.
“I thought it was a diamond in the rough, and I went for it,” Coburn said of this section of the Argenta neighborhood. “It’s amazing to me that no one’s done anything to the east of Main Street in this area. I spent some time down there, looking and chewing on the possibilities. I thought if I can pick up a few more pieces, we can really do something down here.”
Some industrial development occurred around this part of downtown North Little Rock as a result of urban renewal that followed the completion of Interstate 30 in the early 1960s. But hotels and other would-be projects didn’t get off the ground.
“There’s a lot more proposed developments there than projects that were developed,” said Cary Bradburn, historian at the North Little Rock History Commission.
The Sixth and Olive location is the southernmost Coburn property in the neighborhood. The new construction on the way is envisioned to be a calling card for more redevelopment that will move northward on to other blocks.
The details of a second Coburn project are still sorting out. But its look and that of the others to follow won’t be built in cookie-cutter fashion.
“We don’t want every building to look like the first phase,” said Coburn’s son, Sam.
The next mixed-use project is expected to take shape along Poplar Street, where Roger Coburn has put together a larger redevelopment canvas.
“We want this to be urbanist, with buildings set to the curbs, with two- and three-story walk-ups and pocket parks. It’s just a neighborhood we think is going to attract college kids to live and work after they graduate.”
– Alan New
Partner, Taggart Architects
The biggest single concentration of his property is a 1.9-acre tract composed of 11 parcels in the block bound by S.A. Jones Drive and Magnolia, Eighth and Poplar streets. The only piece of the block he doesn’t own is the American Legion Post 74 at 821 Magnolia St.
Coburn’s assembly of land was built around the $631,000 purchase by his East Argenta Land Holdings of 21 parcels held for more than a decade by a single owner: the Mill LLC, led by Harold Tenenbaum.
Acquired during 2005-09, the Tenenbaum property was left over from his investment and assembly of land that helped propel redevelopment east of Main Street farther south.
To enlarge the redevelopment options, Coburn last year bought an additional 23 parcels in a string of transactions with 11 owners between February and September to combine with the scattering of Tenenbaum parcels.
“It’s the next up-and-coming area,” said Greg Nabholz, CEO and principal broker at Nabholz Properties, who brokered the Tenenbaum property.