Site work for a proposed outlet mall has begun on a 30-acre tract of land at the Gateway Town Center in southwest Little Rock.
Arkansas Business first reported on New England Development’s planned purchase of the land in February. The $5.2 million land acquisition was made in May.
Michael Barelli, vice president of New England Development, said site work will continue for the next two months and include the clearing of trees, grading and the placement of drainage pipes and utilities. Building construction is expected to begin in mid to late August.
The only outlet mall in Arkansas is slated to open in summer 2015.
Outlets at Little Rock is expected to bring approximately 75 stores and support about 1,000 jobs. New England Development did not release information on tenants of the outlet center or construction costs to erect the shopping center.
However, the development company said shoppers could expect a gamut of options, including men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, home furnishings and shoes. New England Development said it expects the Little Rock center to be similar to its Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Florida location includes stores like Ann Taylor, Chico’s, LOFT, Haggar Clothing Co., Jos. A. Bank, Men’s Wearhouse, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic, Nike, Carter’s, The Children’s Place and Kitchen Collection.
In terms of food offerings, Barelli said the shopping center will offer both a food court and restaurant options.
“Traditionally, it’s been strictly food courts,” he said. “We’re going to provide a food court, but we also want to have fast-casual and sit-down options with a little more of a dining destination or a place you can spend more time.”
Location, Location, Location
A nearby Bass Pro Shops and being at the junction of two major highways was enough for New England Development to settle on Gateway Town Center for its outlet mall.
“It’s about being at a destination with great access,” Barelli said.
Deborah Black, vice president of marketing and public affairs at New England Development, said the development company is “delighted” to have Bass Pro Shops — the only one in Arkansas — so close to help bring in shoppers from areas outside of Little Rock.
“Outlet centers have a different sort of market reach than traditional shopping centers,” Black said. “Tourists will come from miles and miles away to outlet centers.”
New England Development expects Outlets at Little Rock to generate $100 million in annual retail sales, and in turn generate $6.5 million in state sales tax, $1.5 million in city taxes and $1 million in county taxes.
A Shift in the Industry
Although Outlets at Little Rock will be the state’s only outlet mall when it opens for business, New England Development said there has been a shift from traditional shopping malls to more outlets.
In recent years, retailers have begun to see outlets as a growth and expansion opportunity, Black said.
“There is such an emphasis on value,” she said. “Outlet centers meet the needs of consumers, and they meet the needs for retailers looking for expansion opportunities so it is really a win-win for everybody.”
Barelli said it was “somewhat” of a surprise to learn Arkansas did not have an outlet mall.
“There are not many metro areas that have this kind of population where an outlet center has not gone,” he said. “It is something of a great opportunity.”
Interstate Exits & Bass Pro Drive
The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department is set to receive bids July 23 for improvements to the I-30/430 interchange near Gateway Town Center.
The improvements include a new of the I-430 southbound off-ramp and connection to the frontage road that runs in front of the Gateway Town Center. Another improvement is moving the I-30 westbound off-ramp for Otter Creek and Mabelvale West Road farther east.
Danny Straessle, spokesman for AHTD, said the work work should be done by the end of the calendar year. The estimated cost is between $5-$10 million.
In a project separate from AHTD, Bass Pro Drive, which currently ends at Otter Creek Road, will be extended behind Bass Pro Shops and Outlets at Little Rock, and connect with the frontage road.