Developers Plan New Gateway to Jonesboro


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A 175-acre mixed-use development called Southern Hills is taking shape in southwest Jonesboro as developers court a large retail anchor tenant and plan to wrap up infrastructure work there within a few weeks.

Southern Hills is also planned as a career finale for longtime local developer Carroll Caldwell of Coldwell Banker Village Communities in Jonesboro.

He, along with Matt Millerd, Prateek Gera and David Smith, bought the property for Southern Hills about a year ago, for about $3.8 million. It is east of U.S. 49 (Southwest Drive) at its intersection with Interstate 555 and was once seen as the future site of a mall that never was.

They call it a gateway into Jonesboro from Little Rock.

Millerd said the area Southern Hills will serve “is booming, and there’s no services at all out there yet.” This project is the owners’ answer to supply not meeting demand.

The total value of the completed Southern Hills project is about $400 million and it could be finished in three to five years, the developers said.

Caldwell told Arkansas Business that Southern Hills will be a “lifestyle” development allowing the people who live there to ride their bikes or walk to the grocery store, a restaurant, a nail salon and more.

“It’s going to be a first-class project. … You won’t find this anywhere else in the city of Jonesboro at all or anywhere in the vicinity,” Gera said.

Though the Southern Hills lots have yet to be listed and marketed, contracts have been signed for about 10 of them. The owners declined to disclose the names of these tenants but said they include a fast-food restaurant, a medical facility, a climate-controlled storage business and a coffeehouse. A Kum & Go that was already underway when the property was purchased is also under construction at the southwest corner.

In addition, work on 78 homes is set to begin in the next six months. That will be the first phase of construction, to be followed by a second phase of about 80 homes 12 to 16 months later.

The owners envision a mixture of retail and multifamily housing, a grocery store, fitness center, day care centers, a small office park with four to five individual offices and shared parking, and more. Their plans are loosely modeled after Chesterfield Commons, a large shopping center in St. Louis.
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‘Quality of Life’

Southern Hills will also include about 25 acres of green space, with a retention pond and fountains, plus about 4 miles of sidewalks and about 2 miles of bike trails that will connect to existing trails at the nearby Craighead Forest Park. The developers also aim to link Southwest Drive to Culberhouse Road with sidewalks and bike trails. Millerd said those plans complement the city’s goals around quality of life.

The project will be in one of the top-performing school districts in the state, the Valley View School District, and current residents’ household incomes are above the average for Arkansas and the city, the developers said.

So they’re looking to market Southern Hills to families and young professionals and hope it will help the city retain both. They also hope to attract former tenants of the Mall at Turtle Creek, which was ravaged by a tornado last year.

The Mall at Turtle Creek is also the reason the site for Southern Hills had been vacant since 2006. The Warmack family of Texarkana, the owners of Jonesboro’s long-gone Indian Mall, bought the property in the early 2000s hoping to build a new mall. But the Mall at Turtle Creek, which sits on the other side of town at the northeast corner of East Highland Drive and Red Wolf Boulevard, was developed first, and opened in 2006.

Community leaders are pleased to see something happening there. Mark Young, president and CEO of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, called Southern Hills a “significant” development that will “help continue to enhance our retail, professional and commercial growth in Jonesboro, and that’s positive for the community.”

“That part of the community will be well served by this development. We currently have another large, mixed-use project in the northeast part of the community,” Young said, referring to the 200-acre Greensborough Village on the northern edge of the Arkansas State University campus. It’s owned by Greensborough Investments LLC and is being developed by Halsey Thrasher Harpole Real Estate Group of Jonesboro.

“So it’s good to see that this activity — the growth and development — is occurring all over the community, not just in one specific location,” he said. “We’re excited to see that in southwest Jonesboro.”

Mayor Harold Copenhaver said by email that he’s excited by the developers’ plans. “Jonesboro’s future is bright, and I’m proud that we have local developers investing in these types of projects that will increase quality of place, create jobs, and provide first class housing all on one property,” he said.

“Jonesboro’s economic activity continues to set a record pace and this location is and will attract some great retail options for our regional base.”

‘Last Hurrah’

The project is about three years in the making, according to Gera, one of the developers.

That’s how long he’d been talking to Caldwell and Millerd, his brother-in-law, about doing a big development in that part of Jonesboro before purchasing the property for Southern Hills, which Caldwell and his partners say will be his last “hurrah.”

Caldwell has been working on projects in the city where he was born and raised since 1974. Among them are the RidgePoint Country Club and subdivision featuring million-dollar homes, the Marshall Estates subdivision near the Jonesboro Country Club, many condominiums and a few shopping centers.

Young, with the chamber, said, “You can see his fingerprints on a lot of activity in the community over the years.

“We’ve been very fortunate that, including Carroll, we’ve had developers in our community that have been here for the long haul, and not every community can say that. So that’s, again, a positive thing for our community: to have people who will continue to invest and have done that over the long history of their experience in our community.”