Three residential projects with a high-end bent are kicking off a new round of redevelopment in downtown North Little Rock. The apartments, townhomes and single-family homes represent $6.8 million in new construction.
The projects by local developer Roger Coburn Jr. are introducing revitalization activity to a dormant section of North Little Rock, northeast of the historic downtown Argenta area.
The trio is the first wave of new buildings that Coburn plans to build on land scattered across parts of nine blocks west of Interstate 30 and east of Main Street between Sixth and 10th streets.
So far, Coburn has assembled more than 40 lots covering nearly 7.5 acres in a string of deals totaling more than $2.3 million. He has more lots under contract, too.
The property is part of an opportunity zone, but that designation with its tax-sheltering possibilities for capital gains investments wasn’t a consideration for Coburn.
“For me, I’m hanging onto it for the long term because I’m going to create a neighborhood,” he said. “I would’ve bought the property even if it wasn’t in an opportunity zone because of the location.”
The first project to launch construction is his $2.5 million Sixth & Olive development, encompassing five townhomes at the northwest corner of Sixth and Olive streets.
“We broke ground about two weeks ago,” Coburn said. Planned to start last summer, construction is expected to be completed by year’s end.
Originally envisioned to include multifamily, Coburn reworked the development plan, scrapping a 13-unit apartment building with space for a ground-floor restaurant in favor of two more townhomes.
“There will be more opportunity for individual ownership, rather than simply rental opportunities, as we maintain the position that opportunities for ownership is key,” Coburn said.
A block north, construction of a 10-unit apartment project with private parking should begin in the second quarter. The $2.8 million development will take shape on three lots at the northwest corner of Bishop Lindsey Avenue and Olive Street.
The two-story layout will feature a courtyard and an amenity shared by the townhomes: third-floor views. The apartment project will sport a rooftop patio while the townhomes each have a private deck.
“We’re trying to do rooftops,” Coburn said of incorporating vista platforms as a design component. “We want that to be our niche.”
On the west side of the apartments, two brownstone-type residences are on the drawing board at 810-812 Magnolia St. as a $1.5 million development.
Coburn sees the neighboring three-story buildings as large homes where an owner could live on the upper floors and rent out the ground-floor space as an apartment.
Herron Horton Architects of Little Rock designed the retro 810-812 Magnolia project while Taggart Architects of North Little provided the modern look of the apartments and Sixth & Olive project.
The apartments will be an entree for more projects in an area dubbed by some as the NOBL District, as in North Of Bishop Lindsey. The Taggart firm created a master plan of the redevelopment possibilities for much of Coburn’s Argenta property and an additional 5 acres scattered among 18 different owners.
“It’s an exciting project overall and will continue to help downtown grow,” said Robert Birch, North Little Rock economic development director. “There’s a need for more residential downtown.”
Details on Coburn’s followup projects in Argenta are still in the works. He anticipates that commercial components will be part of the mix.
“We’re already looking at some small floor plans for office,” Coburn said. “We hope to start in 2023 or late this year if sufficient building materials are obtainable.”
Less than a mile southeast of the townhome project, Coburn has purchased about 10 acres near the north end of the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. Coburn is still making plans for that property, spread over a 10-block area.
“It’s a blank canvas right now,” said Fletcher Hanson, Coburn’s real estate adviser and principal at the Little Rock commercial realty firm of Moses Tucker Partners.
The likely starting point for development is a piece of ground on the south side of Riverfront Drive at Vine Street, west of the bridge.
“We’re ready,” Coburn said. “We’ve assembled about all we’re going to assemble.”
The nearly 3-acre tract along the Arkansas River Trail is ripe for some type of mixed-use project that would incorporate some bike-centric retail and include a bar/microbrewery.
“We talked about all kinds of things,” Coburn said. “We hope to start developing that property in 2023.”
His family’s ownership in much of the site dates back to the 1980s. Last year, Coburn added more than 7 acres east of the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge in deals totaling more than $950,000. The bulk of the land is between Washington Avenue and Ferry Street.