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Largest Commercial Projects in Arkansas Top $2.1B

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This marks the fifth consecutive year that the roster of largest commercial construction projects in Arkansas topped $2 billion. The 2018 list consists of 160 projects around the state that represent a combined dollar total of $2.1 billion.

K-12 school construction contributed 49 entries, the most of any category. A dozen projects on college and university campuses added to the tally of education-related construction.

While elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and higher education generated many a construction project, the biggest of the bunch this year came in the form of a private-sector industrial development.

Construction of the 350,000-SF Simmons Foods poultry processing facility is well underway in Benton County between Decatur and Gentry. The $125 million construction project is part of a $300 million investment by Simmons Foods of Siloam Springs, one of the state’s largest private companies.

“I’d say we’re about 50 percent complete,” said Cody Crawford, president of C.R. Crawford Construction of Fayetteville. “We should be wrapping up late next year.”

The operational capabilities of the plant represent the largest project ever for Simmons Foods, which reported revenue of $1.57 billion in 2017. At full employment and production capacity, the new facility along Highway 59 will deploy 2,300 workers processing 2 million chickens weekly.

During the three-year ramp-up, Simmons Foods expects to make 1,500 new hires to staff the plant, which will replace its Decatur facility.

“There’s some significant concrete work going on, and the project is starting to take shape,” said Donny Epp, communications director for Simmons Foods.

More than 3,000 pieces of precast concrete will be used to build the facility. More than 1.5 million cubic yards of soil had to be moved to prepare the 120-acre construction site, where as many as 450 construction workers are making the Simmons Foods project happen.

The new northwest Arkansas project replaces last year’s No. 1, the now completed $132 million north end zone expansion-renovation at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the University of Arkansas campus.

Half of the 30 largest projects this year are devoted to K-12 construction. The biggest of these remains the $103 million Southwest High School in Little Rock at No. 2, which is headed toward completion by fall 2020.

Conway’s Nabholz Construction Corp. and Little Rock’s Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. each accounted for 14 K-12 projects.

“We’ve done a majority of the K-12 work in Pulaski County,” said Scott Copas, CEO of Baldwin & Shell. “It’s been a major source of our income since 2005.”

A performing arts center in Fayetteville, the new 50,000-SF home of TheatreSquared, offers a departure from the K-12 work that dominated Baldwin & Shell’s list of larger projects.

“By far, TheatreSquared is the most unique,” Copas said. “It will probably be the finest auditorium in Arkansas. It’s small and quaint but will have some of the best acoustics in the state. People will really enjoy it.”

The $25 million project at No. 18 will house two theaters, the company’s first dedicated rehearsal space, offices, education and community space, on-site workshops for scenery, props and costumes, eight dedicated guest artist apartments, outdoor terraces at three levels and an open-all-day cafe/bar.

Another unusual project from a design perspective is the $57 million Arkansas Heart Hospital in Bryant at No. 7.

“It’s the largest health care project that we’ve done here, and possibly the most impactful,” said William Clark, CEO of Little Rock’s Clark Contractors LLC. “Bruce Murphy brought a lot of ideas from traveling abroad.

“The hospital is really going to be unique in terms of natural light and spiritual aspects of healing that you don’t see a lot of around here. It’s going to be somewhat of a game-changer for health care regionally.”

The Heart Hospital is the only non-K-12 project among the five Bryant entries on this year’s list.

The largest hospitality project, another Clark Contractors job, is the $42 million Embassy Suites Hotel & Convention Center in Jonesboro at No. 9.

“What makes this project so exciting is that it’s on a college campus, and it will benefit ASU’s hospitality management program with some much needed convention space and hotel rooms,” said William Clark. “It will be a real economic driver.”

Completion of the $104 million Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Springdale cleared the way for the ascension of a new largest health care project this year.

The $82 million surgery and cardiac care unit tower at Jonesboro’s St. Bernards Medical Center (No. 4) represents a 250,000-SF addition and the establishment of a new main entry.

“We do a lot of work for St. Bernards,” said Greg Williams, CEO of Nabholz Construction. “This has got to be the most significant project that we’ve done for them.”

The tower will house 14 new operating suites and 46 critical care rooms. Construction is moving toward a fall 2019 completion.

The biggest redevelopment on this year’s list is the $18 million AC Hotel by Marriott in downtown Little Rock at No. 30, slated to open in late 2019.

“We are in full construction production,” said Derek Alley, managing director of the Little Rock general contracting firm of VCC. “We’re blowing and going.”

The work will transform the historic Hall and Davidson buildings at 201-215 W. Capitol Ave. into a 114-room boutique hotel with a lobby bar along with 5,000 SF of ground-floor retail space.

“We’re working to zero in on a restaurant group, but we’re exploring different options,” Alley said.

Get The List

2018 Largest Commercial Projects – ranked by valuation

Little Rock produced the most entries on this year’s list of largest commercial projects, with a 2018 count of 21 projects.

Jonesboro and Bentonville each accounted for nine projects, followed by North Little Rock and Rogers with seven each.

K-12 construction provided the largest projects in Bentonville, an $18.5 million elementary school at No. 28, and Rogers, the $20.5 million expansion and remodeling of the Arkansas Arts Academy at No. 24.

Four cities each contributed six projects to the list: Fayetteville, Springdale, Hot Springs and Conway.

The largest project in each is the $64.5 million Stadium Drive Residence Hall on the University of Arkansas campus at No. 5, the $35 million second-phase work on the Springdale School of Innovation at No. 12, the $31.4 million Hot Springs Junior Academy at No. 15 and the $15.1 million Miller Creative Quad on the Hendrix College campus at No. 37.

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