Conway is moving forward with another large-scale shopping center after its city council unanimously approved the rezoning of the proposed site to a commercial classification.
By an 8-0 vote, the council rezoned the parcel of land from an I-3, industrial classification, to C-3. The proposed shopping center includes Sam's Club as one of its tenants.
Mark Scott, public relations manager for Sam's Club, said the company is appreciative of the step the Conway City Council took this week and is anxious to be a part of the growth happening in Conway. The location would employ about 175 people, Scott said.
"We certainly see small business growth is taking off in Conway, and has in the past decade," Scott said. "It makes sense to go into an area with a dynamic small business community. It's a natural fit for [Sam's Club]."
The Sam's Club in Conway is part of a bigger plan for a large retail center on 60 acres of land at the southeast corner of the intersection of Interstate 40 and Dave Ward Drive. One preliminary site plan shows more than 442,000-SF of shopping space, while another shows about 365,000-SF. Depending on which site plan is chosen, it's a development that ranges between $36.5-$41 million, not including the development of seven outparcels.
As previously reported by Arkansas Business, right now, the plans include a 135,500-SF Sam's Club, 62,000-SF Academy Sports, 25,000-SF Ross Dress for Less, 23,400-SF Bed Bath & Beyond and a 12,500-SF Petco.
That's in addition to smaller tenants, which include a 10,000-SF Ulta beauty products store, 7,000-SF Altar'd State, 4,500-SF Loft, 4,000-SF Jos. A. Banks, 3,500-SF Chico's and 4,000-SF Carter's.
The project, headed by Collett & Associates LLC of Charlotte, N.C., could begin as soon as this summer if the pieces — site plan review, replatting and building code review — fall into place.
Scott said Sam's Club, which would be the eighth in Arkansas, hopes to open in early 2016.
"Now, there are a lot of factors that go into that like weather and approvals," he said.
The Conway Sam's Club will have the "latest and greatest features," Scott said, including a pharmacy, tire and battery center and fuel center. Scott said the building will also have more green-friendly features than some of the older establishments.
Bryan Patrick, director of planning and development, said it's possible construction on the Sam's Club could begin before other tenants of the shopping center.
"[Sam's Club] knows what it wants to do," he said. "They only answer to themselves. The shopping center is still working on deals with other tenants, and when those deals are worked out, it's still a build-to-suit with the [tenants] coming in."
The Lewis Crossing shopping center is not the only major project in the works in Conway. Just to the south and across I-40, Little Rock's Baptist Health is moving forward with plans for a 200,000-SF hospital. Baptist has already invested more than $10 million to assemble the site, and hopes to start on the 100-bed medical center this summer with a projected open date some time in 2016.
Though it is still in the planning stage, Patrick said Baptist is "almost permit-ready."
Not only is Lewis Crossing not the only major development, it's not the only major shopping center development in Conway. The Central Landing project, a mixed-use redevelopment of the 151 acres of the municipal airport, which is moving to a 180-acre site in southwest Conway, is said to be a $100 million joint-effort between Conway Development Corp. and Jim Wilson & Associates LLC of Montgomery, Ala., which has more than 21 million SF of shopping center space on its resume.
"You're going to see major, major retailing expansion in the market," Brad Lacy, president of CDC, told Arkansas Business in March. "When you come back in five years, you're going to see a very different Conway."