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$28M Complex Opens New Front in Rogers’ Revitalization PlanLock Icon

4 min read

Perhaps no one was more pleased to hear a big development was coming to his downtown than Rogers Mayor Greg Hines.

Hines lives within a short walking distance of the downtown he has championed for years. In 2015, the city devised a master plan for its downtown, and then Hines sat fidgeting while it slowly took shape.

In early October, Specialized Real Estate Group of Fayetteville announced it would soon begin construction on a $28 million multifamily complex called First Street Flats on the northeastern edge of downtown in a region called the Water Tower Experience District. The multiuse development will have 121 residential units and will be built on the site of the original Ozark Cider & Vinegar Co., which is adjacent to a sole, out-of-use water tower that gives the district its name.

For Hines, the news was manna from heaven.

“It has been a bit slower of a process than I had envisioned when we started this downtown revitalization,” said Hines, who was first elected mayor in 2011. “At the same time I have to say while patience is not my greatest virtue, it has probably worked out better this way. Sometimes you get a lot of excitement in an area and then you get a shotgun approach. Then you look back and say, ‘Man, can we redo that?’ I really feel that most of what is happening downtown is very intentional.”

Hines said the development is proof that the city’s revitalization plan is bearing fruit. It hasn’t received as much attention as other cities in northwest Arkansas — Bentonville and Springdale both have robustly growing downtowns — in part because the Rogers plan has been methodical rather than meteoric, and the city’s own downtown is often overshadowed by its Pinnacle area, called the Billion-Dollar Mile.

But Rogers’ downtown is thriving. Its Oktoberfest festival was well attended as are the frequent music nights held in the Railyard Park in the heart of the city.

“When we first started talking about the design of the park and including a stage, we were hoping on a good weekend we might get 300-400 people on a Saturday night listening to music,” said John McCurdy, the city’s director of community development. “We are pretty regularly in the 1,200 range. There are a lot of people milling around.”

But Hines said the city needed a big project downtown. First Street Flats fits the bill. The project carries weight, Hines said, because the well-respected team at SREG had the “gumption” to be the first one in.

“Few people like to be the first ones to do it coming to a new area,” Hines said. “I’m confident in their success. Did I hope we had developments like that five years ago? Yeah. Looking back it probably wouldn’t have ended up in the right spot and wouldn’t be as quality construction and integrated with other lifestyle amenities. I think it is the right time and the right folks to do it.”

SREG CEO Jeremy Hudson said his company has done similar developments in Bentonville and Fayetteville but has been looking to get into Rogers since the city finished its master plan seven years ago.

“We focus on opportunities in downtown regions because we know that connecting people with businesses, nature, and each other is vital to healthy communities,” Hudson said in an email to Arkansas Business. “The location of First Street Flats will put residents within reach of services, workplaces, and active transportation infrastructure, which not only aids in creating a healthy community, it also encourages small business development.”

Hines agreed, saying SREG’s project should spur additional investments.

Unique in NW Arkansas

The First Street Flats project will connect to the city’s trail system, including the Razorback Greenway and Lake Atalanta. City leaders hope that the addition of each new development will benefit the group dynamic of downtown.

“The fabric of downtown Rogers is very organic,” said Andrea Allen, the co-owner of Onyx Coffee Lab, located just a few blocks south of the First Street Flats’ site and just north of Railyard Park. “Most of the businesses are local or single-standing operations, which is a testament to the community’s desire to build downtown together while keeping people as the focus. It makes downtown Rogers unique in northwest Arkansas, and I think it’s built to continue to stand the test of time as it has for so many years already.”

Downtown development has been hampered by construction on Arkansas Street, which forms the eastern border of downtown. A project to upgrade First Street presented a similar hurdle, but the infrastructure work is vital to downtown’s long-term success, Hines said.

“I had to learn somewhat the very hard way that all the infrastructure downtown is old,” he said. “It’s a logistical nightmare. As we do it block by block, which we have done most of First Street and we are on Arkansas Street now, when it’s done, it will serve the city for the next 100 years.”

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