Chad Hatfield spent $3.4 million on 18.4 acres in the heart of Rogers’ coveted Pinnacle Hills area and then spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out what to do with it.
Hatfield and his investor partner, Paula Whalen of San Diego, acquired the tract at the northwest corner of South Champions Drive and West Northgate Road from an Illinois investor in 2013. Hatfield, a Rogers real estate developer, knew he wanted to do something special on the site but couldn’t put the right project together.
Then Hatfield met with representatives of Great Lakes Capital of South Bend, Indiana, which was looking to relocate the Ruth’s Chris Steak House on Pinnacle Hills Parkway, just a couple of blocks from the Hatfield-Whalen tract.
The two development teams came up with the idea for the $110 million Plaza at Pinnacle Hills, a mixed-use project with an expansive Ruth’s Chris, 300-plus luxury apartments, retail space and a four-story parking garage.
Great Lakes developed a similar project called Jordan Creek in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2021 that featured the same restaurant anchor, 199 luxury apartments and 25,000 SF of retail space.
“This has been a long-term project of mine to figure out what to do with the land we bought about 10 years ago,” Hatfield said. “I was trying to find the right project, the right people, the right everything. We ran into this group about three years ago, and they were initially just looking to relocate the Ruth’s Chris.
“At the time, right after COVID, I was looking around for different partners for the multifamily side of it. I wanted to focus on premium. These were the only people really who were as premium as I wanted to be.”
Ground work on the site started earlier this year, and the first levels of the garage have already risen out of the piles of dirt. Hatfield said the development should be completed in 2025.
The Plaza plans fit in well at Pinnacle Hills, which remains a prominent development years after it first rose to prominence as the backbone of Benton County’s Billion-Dollar Mile. Developments in the area routinely surpass nine figures, as does the Plaza.
While inflation and higher interest rates on commercial loans have threatened growth in other areas, Pinnacle Hills continues to prosper. Marshall Saviers, president of Cushman & Wakefield/Sage Partners in Rogers, said the higher cost of doing business has affected only Pinnacle Hills’ smaller developments.
“It is harder to make the smaller projects work,” Saviers said. “There is usually less cash put in those deals, and it’s more relying on interest and less on equity. Those deals have slowed down, but the bigger deals are still happening here.
“The bigger investors from the area are still really interested in coming here, and they tend to have more cash. Most of those investors are coming in from out of the market, besides obviously Mrs. [Johnelle] Hunt and others who have been here for a long time.”
Hunt and her late husband, J.B. Hunt, who founded the publicly traded trucking giant headquartered in Lowell, were part of an investor group that developed the Pinnacle Hills area.
Hatfield said he wanted his project to be high-end, from restaurants to the apartment units, where he expects tenants to pay a premium for the location.
The retail and restaurant spaces will likewise draw visitors, Hatfield hopes.
While some areas or developers are finding low- and middle-sized developments harder to build, Pinnacle Hills continues to grow because its high-end allure remains untarnished, he said.
Pinnacle is “a big part of the equation,” Hatfield said. “It keeps creating a magnet. It is a flight to quality. If you look across most commercial real estate [markets], you hear a lot of buzz about commercial real estate being a potential bubble and bursting in the United States, but there is a flight to quality.
“Everything is going to come down to quality at the end of the day. Those are the rents that are going to have longevity and are going to be sought after the most.”
The Plaza is also following the new northwest Arkansas push to build more density.
Saviers, the co-chairman of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said Pinnacle Hills is undergoing the same changes as other robust areas of northwest Arkansas. When land was plentiful and prices were cheap, building was expansive. Now the region’s developers are building tighter, denser, more multiuse projects.
“That’s a byproduct of the density that is needed in the area,” Saviers said. “We had what felt like more land, an unending amount of land, that made it so people didn’t have to build to density.”
Saviers said there is still a lot of runway for Pinnacle Hills to grow. Projects such as the Plaza at Pinnacle Hills will continue to rise in the area.
“Based on the developments on the books, there seems to be a good bit left,” Saviers said. “It certainly isn’t going to be anytime soon. When I’m talking with people in other parts of the country, they just can’t believe our continued progress even in our tougher environment.”
Hatfield, whose office is adjacent to the Plaza work site, is a firm believer in the continued bright future of Pinnacle Hills. He said its location just off Interstate 49 and the walkability and connectivity of many of the area’s amenities are huge attractions.
Someone who lives in the Plaza — or who visits the Plaza — can walk to a restaurant, to TopGolf and then to a concert at the AMP without needing anything other than comfortable shoes.
“If you look at dollars, it blows me away all the projects going up and the dollars of those projects,” Hatfield said. “I would say it is as hot as it has ever been. When you look forward and see the Walmart home office campus getting completed at the end of ’25, which is about when we are going to be complete, I think you are going to get a whole new wave.”