The new NEA Baptist Medical Center became a magnet for commercial development in Jonesboro when the project was announced in 2009.
The six-story, 550,000-SF hospital, adjoining 213,000-SF medical office building and 34,000-SF cancer care facility are still a few weeks away from opening. But the 77-acre campus has already drawn a string of restaurants and shops northward along Stadium Boulevard to East Johnson Avenue.
“This thing here is a game-changer,” said Josh Brown, co-owner of Jonesboro’s Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate & Development.
More commercial projects are on the way for this stretch of U.S. 49, too. In the background is a 200-acre tract once optioned for development by Bruce Burrow before financial reversals sidetracked him. (See here for more on Burrow.)
During the past 36 months, Jonesboro has tallied more than $354 million worth of commercial construction. Much of the activity has taken place along the Stadium Boulevard corridor southeast of the Arkansas State University campus.
Sissy’s Log Cabin of Pine Bluff opened a free-standing jewelry store at 2900 Parkwood Road, just off Stadium Boulevard on part of the old Craighead County Fairgrounds.
“We’ve had a tremendous response,” said Bill Jones, president of Sissy’s Log Cabin. “Jonesboro has such a large trade area, more than 400,000 people. There is a vast opportunity.”
The 6,000-SF shop, which opened in April 2012, has the distinction of housing the first Rolex boutique in Arkansas.
More commercial projects northeast of ASU are contributing to the mix as rural parcels are undergoing transformation.
“We’re seeing an influx of opportunities on the northeast part of town because of the new hospital,” said Otis Spriggs, Jonesboro planning director.
To the east of the new NEA Baptist campus, pastureland is poised for sale to an affiliate of Reliant Healthcare of Conway to develop a nursing home and to Cinema Management Group Inc. of Memphis for a 16-screen cinema project. The theatre project will more than double the number of screens in Jonesboro, where the Malco Hollywood 12 is the lone movie theater option.
The mega NEA Baptist project isn’t just relocating 1,272 jobs from its current facility 4.9 miles south at 3024 Stadium Blvd. The hospital announced it is adding 530 jobs.
Even before those potential customers have arrived, nearby businesses are thriving.
A Dairy Queen at the northeast corner of Pleasant Grove Road and East Johnson Avenue was projected to do $880,000 in sales in its first year. The 1,880-SF restaurant at 4100 E. Johnson Ave. did $1.5 million in sales during 2012, in less than a full year of operation.
With that kind of market reception, it’s no wonder the 3.2-acre Prospect Missionary Baptist Church property at 4200 E. Johnson Ave. is under contract with a full-price offer of $1.5 million.
The location is slated for redevelopment with upscale retail space on the front portion of the site with a possible small office building on the back.
The 2006 opening of Bruce Burrow’s Mall at Turtle Creek project established a huge retailing anchor for commercial development at the northeast corner of Stadium Boulevard and Highland Drive.
Roughly halfway between the 731,000-SF retail hub and new NEA Baptist campus, a dormant development could be awakening.
The 200-acre tract, owned by the Snellgrove Family Partnership, is positioned to become another commercial hub on the edge of the ASU campus at Stadium Boulevard and Johnson Avenue.
“We anticipate that thing going to market during the next 12 to 18 months for a major mixed-use development,” said Gary Harpole, president and chief operating officer of Jonesboro’s Halsey Real Estate Inc.
“We think this could be the single biggest commercial development in Jonesboro. The city has never had a mixed-use development of this scope.”
Harpole said retail will be a major component of plans along with student housing.
Aaron Webster, who has worked in Jonesboro’s retail scene for about 15 years, credits Burrow’s mall project with unleashing a flood of retail development.
“Ever since then, it’s been rapid growth,” said Webster, operations manager for the Academy Sports store in Jonesboro. “Every time you turn around someone new is coming to town.”
The Mall at Turtle Creek cast Jonesboro, long bypassed by retailers in favor of markets deemed tonier, in a new, affluent light.
The city’s popularity as a profitable destination choice for new business has continued to grow.
“We’re right in line with stores in bigger markets,” said Webster of Academy Sports sales since the Jonesboro store opened in August 2012. “It’s going to be neat to see where we’re at in the next five years with more big-name stores coming to town.”
Josh Brown of Haag Brown Commercial recently took out-of-state investors on a tour around town. They were amazed at what they saw in Jonesboro.
“A mortgage broker from Los Angles said it was the most dynamic market of its size that he had ever seen,” Brown said. “We have no second-generation space. Even our old strip centers are 100 percent leased.”
Redevelopment of the 100-bed NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital already is lined up in advance of the health care provider’s full move out by year’s end.
“We’re going to do a post-acute care facility that will support all the providers in the market,” said Rick Williams, owner of Summit Health Care Providers of Little Rock.
The 120,800-SF hospital is the heart of a 17.6-acre campus that Summit Health affiliates bought for $6.9 million along with more than 10 acres of surrounding property in November 2011.