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St. Bernards Medical Center Tops Jonesboro’s Construction Projects ListLock Icon

6 min read

Construction projects are flourishing in Jonesboro, despite the financial woes plaguing one of its largest commercial ventures.

Inside the city limits, $164 million worth of construction is in motion, led by St. Bernards Medical Center in downtown Jonesboro. And more projects are on the way.

Construction is expected to start soon on the $60 million Embassy Suites and Red Wolf Convention Center on the campus of Arkansas State University, Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Hospitality Management of Springfield, Missouri, said in an email to Arkansas Business last week. “We are waiting for the building permit which we will have any day,” he wrote.

The project is expected to take 14-15 months to complete. It will feature a 202-room Embassy Suites hotel, 40,000-SF Red Wolf Convention Center and Houlihan’s restaurant. Killian Construction Co. of Springfield, Missouri, is the general contractor. The project is scheduled to open before the start of the fall 2018 semester at the college.

The other convention center project in Jonesboro, however, is struggling and has been hit with a number of contractor’s liens and lawsuits.

Other projects in Jonesboro are doing better. St. Bernards Medical Center recently completed its $7.35 million Ben E. Owens Cancer Center addition and renovation project, said Kevin Hodges, vice president of affiliated and senior services at St. Bernards.

The work was one of four phases that will total $137.5 million at St. Bernards in downtown Jonesboro, which has helped fuel interest in the area, Hailey Knight, executive director of the Downtown Jonesboro Association, said in an email.

“We have 29 new lofts being built,” she wrote. “People are attracted to this area.”

She says downtown also benefited from the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State, which enrolled its first class of 120 students last August.

Also helping development in Jonesboro is Craighead County’s low unemployment rate, which has been attractive to developers, said Joshua Brown, principal broker of Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate & Development in Jonesboro.

The unemployment rate for the county was 2.8 percent in March, which was lower than the state’s rate of 3.6 percent and the national rate of 4.5 percent.

And he said that the city is still seeing commercial projects as a result of NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro spending $400 million on its medical campus, which opened in January 2014.

Here are some of the current top projects in the city.

St. Bernards Medical Center Surgery Tower/ Emergency Department Ambulance Entrance

Cost: $80 million
Contractor: Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway
Architect: HKS Inc. of Dallas
Projected Completion: Spring 2019

St. Bernards announced in December 2015 that it was starting a four-phase construction project.

The centerpiece of the project is the $80 million, 245,000-SF, five-story surgical and intensive care tower and renovation of the emergency department, said Hodges.

The project will consolidate services into one building, he said. It will also provide a new entrance for emergency services. The first level will have 14 surgical suites and a pharmacy, and the second floor will be a 48-bed critical care unit. Hodges said the project was financed through a bond issue and with the health care system’s cash reserves. After this project is complete, Hodges said, another phase will begin on renovating areas that haven’t yet been identified. He didn’t have a cost estimate for that construction phase.

Hyatt Place Hotel & Convention Center

Cost: $25 Million
Contractor: Construction Network Inc. of Jonesboro
Architect: Pure Architecture Studio LLC of Milwaukee
Projected Completion: Unknown

Jonesboro Hyatt Place Hotel & Convention Center broke ground in August, and problems soon developed. Subcontractors earlier this year began filing liens against the project totaling more than $900,000.

The developer, Northern Arkansas Hotel & Convention Center LLC, hasn’t made any payments to the general contractor and owes $1.5 million to subcontractors and a supplier, according to documents filed in court late last month.

Sean Stem, the president of Construction Network Inc. of Jonesboro, said in an affidavit filed April 21 that Northern Arkansas Hotel & Convention Center “has failed to make payments to CNI and to date has made no payments in any amount to CNI related to work performed on this project.”

The Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission on April 13 sent a letter to Northern Arkansas Hotel & Convention Center demanding copies of several documents involving the financing of the project; it also asked to see a commitment letter from Hyatt. If the commission doesn’t receive the paperwork by May 19, it will rescind its pledge of $300,000 to the project.

Chris Keller, CEO of Northern Arkansas Hotel & Convention Center, didn’t respond to an email message from Arkansas Business last week.

Last week, Keller returned nearly $75,000 the A&P Commission had given for the project, Chairman Jerry Morgan said in an email to Arkansas Business last week. The check “didn’t have any correspondence with it,” he said. “It was just the check.”

FNB Financial Park

Cost: $20 million
Contractor: Ramsons Inc. of Jonesboro
Architect: WD&D Architects of Little Rock
Projected Completion: Spring 2018

First National Bank of Paragould announced in September that it was building a five-story, 60,000-SF building for its Craighead County operations. First National spokesman Blake Guinn said the bank’s headquarters will remain in Paragould.

The Jonesboro project will have a community room, an outdoor terrace and “public events will be welcomed and encouraged,” according to a First National news release. The site also will have underground parking for 50 vehicles.

The project is on schedule and should be completed in the spring of 2018, Guinn said.

Arkansas State University Undergraduate Housing

Cost: $14.8 million
Contractor: Huffman & Co. of Little Rock
Architect: Planworx Architecture of Raleigh, North Carolina
Projected Completion: Fall 2017

The two buildings, totaling 350 beds, for undergraduates at Arkansas State University won’t look “anything like dormitories from the late 20 century,” said spokesman Bill Smith. “They’ll have 9-foot ceilings. They have ceiling fans. They have walk-in closets.”

The amenities will be comparable to off-campus apartments, he said.

A-State signed a 35-year land lease agreement with Zimmer Development Co. of Wilmington, North Carolina, to build the dorms along with graduate housing. Zimmer also will maintain the units while A-State will manage and market the complex, according to an A-State news release. During the initial years, Zimmer will pay $200,000 annually for the undergraduate land lease.

Smith said A-State’s on-campus housing had operated at full capacity for several years.

The arrangement with Zimmer “was seen as a way to enhance the inventory of campus housing without the debt load that might come with it.”

Arkansas State University Graduate Housing

Cost: $12.2 million
Contractor: Huffman & Co. of Little Rock
Architect: Planworx Architecture of Raleigh, North Carolina
Projected Completion: Fall 2017

The 165-bed complex for Arkansas State University’s graduate students is expected to open by the fall, said A-State spokesman Bill Smith.

The rooms feature their own bathrooms and closets, he said.

Zimmer Development Co. is also leasing the land the building is on and will pay $105,000 during the initial years.

“Our student community has grown,” then-Chancellor Tim Hudson said in a February 2016 news release announcing the housing projects. “These projects allow us to accommodate students who want to reside on campus throughout their career.”

The two projects will bring the resident total to about 3,700.

St. Bernards Heartcare Center Renovation

Cost: $12 million
Contractor: Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway
Architect: HKS Inc. of Dallas
Projected Completion: December 2017

The 14,000-SF renovation work at St. Bernards Heartcare Center started in January and is expected to be completed by the end of the year, said Hodges, the St. Bernards VP. The facade of the center will remain the same, but the inside is being renovated so that all noninvasive procedures will be conducted on the first floor and invasive procedures on the second. It also is adding a cardiac catheterization lab. The third floor, which had been a shell since the building opened in 1999, will be built out to hold a 26-unit patient prep and recovery area and a separate family waiting area, according to St. Bernards.

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