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Getting Back to Breckenridge

4 min read

Once the prime dining and entertainment destination in West Little Rock, Breckenridge Village is poised to recapture its former glory, and more, as part of a major property development project announced last year. 

Anchored by a movie theater and surrounded by a comedy club, restaurants and retail stores, Breckenridge Village was known as a one-stop destination for a night out.

But closures and vacancies have cost the property some of its luster, while also offering a huge opportunity for rebirth, said Hank Kelley, whose firm Kelley Commercial Partners will manage the property. Kelley said the project is the largest such revamp he has undertaken.

Kelley, broker, principal partner and CEO, said the development, comprising 11.5 acres and 125,000 SF of versatile space, sits at an irresistible location at the intersection of Rodney Parham and Interstate 430.

He wouldn’t put a price tag on the project, but a press release announcing the purchase described it as “a multimillion-dollar renovation.” 

“We looked beyond the short-term changes of tenants and looked at where else could we find 11.5 acres located at as prominent a location as I-430 and Rodney Parham,” Kelley said, “and have a building shell space of good leases, good foundations, good bones in the building to work from and be able to have an accumulation of these users to come together like they are.

“And we couldn’t find a better location for that anywhere in central Arkansas.”

The ownership group BK-Breck LLC purchased Breckenridge Village last May and comprises the Keet family (who have a number of popular restaurants in the area), Nashville’s The Bodnar Group and other unnamed entities.

Kelley said that some existing businesses wanted to stay and be part of the revamp, and some wanted to move on and either stay out of real estate development altogether or to be part of property development projects elsewhere. 

“And guess what? All the parties were right,” Kelley said. “So the people that exited were happy to exit and the people that stayed in were happy to stay in.

“So it became a cooperative effort, and we found, through marketing and relationships that we had, we found a good partner combination of users that are restaurateurs that understood how to make restaurants successful in rehabilitated-type situations instead of ground up.”

Design and landscaping plans are underway and include work on exteriors and signage, new entrances and an amphitheater-style courtyard. 

The lineup of restaurants, many of which will be familiar to people in central Arkansas, include The Root Cafe, Flyway Brewing, Waldo’s Chicken and Beer — all familiar sights in the Little Rock/North Little Rock area — and Deluca’s Pizzeria, which until now has had one location in Hot Springs.

The Keet Family owns JTJ Restaurants, the company behind local establishments like Cypress Social, Petit & Keet and branches of Waldo’s and Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe. 

“People have great memories from here in the past, and what we’re determined to do is bring those great memories back for future generations,” Keet said. 

Existing restaurants at Breckenridge include Mt. Fuji and Eat My Catfish, as well as the comedy club The Looney Bin and the children’s creative play business The Wonder Place. The movie theater the Regal Cinema closed its doors Jan. 6 after its parent company Cineworld Group filed for bankruptcy. 

The Keets will keep offices in the development, while outdoor patios, courtyards and community parking are in the plans. The spaces will be “event oriented” Kelley said, and can be used for farmers’ markets and other community happenings.

The development group is working with Looney Bin to upgrade and remodel its space to offer enhanced food and beverage selections.

Several retail businesses, including a clothing store, and more food and beverage establishments, like a coffee business, have expressed interest, Kelley said. 

While restaurants seem to be leading the way in claiming space in the development, Kelley said transforming a retail store into a food service business can be a challenge compared to other types of development, but he said Keet and the other restaurant owners know how that’s done.

“To take a building that has been a retail men’s clothing store and to convert it into a Deluca’s takes a little more foresight and effort and capital,” Kelley said. “And the good news about this group is they understand where to spend the money to make their restaurants as vibrant and functional as they can be and work with the shell of the building and the location.”

The elephant in the room, so to speak, is the 44,000-SF Regal, which could arguably be said to have been the centerpiece of Breckenridge. Kelley said there is interest in developing the structure for alternate use, but there is a “strong likelihood” it will remain as a theater.

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