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Uptown Fayetteville Rediscovers Popularity

5 min read

Jeremy Hudson is placing a multimillion-dollar bet on uptown Fayetteville.

It’s not Hudson personally who is making the bet, but his company, Specialized Real Estate Group, that is putting its faith and money in the Steele Crossing area in north Fayetteville. Hudson is not the only one confident about the area.

“We certainly believe in that area,” said Hudson, SREG’s CEO. “We went looking for the best sites in north Fayetteville and did due diligence. This was our favorite.”

Specialized Real Estate plans to break ground this month on a 300-plus unit apartment complex that will include community areas and a 17,000-SF retail space. The complex, whose construction is scheduled to cost $30 million, is going in at the corner of Joyce Avenue and Steele Boulevard, just across the street from the Malco Razorback Cinema.

A bonus for SREG is that the complex will be on the Razorback Greenway.

The 14 acres were bought for $3.25 million by KMSDC LLC, led by Rob Kimbel, an investment partner of Specialized Real Estate Group. Once the construction financing is official, Hudson said, the property will roll into another LLC that will include SREG and Kimbel’s group.

SREG has hired Golden Construction of Birmingham, Ala., as contractor, while the architects, Modus Studio, and engineers, Jorgensen & Associates, are from Fayetteville.

Steele Crossing, once 300 acres of grazing land, has been a steadily popular destination area for retail since Irwin Partners of Little Rock first started developing it for owners Nancy Ruebeck, Marjorie Brooks and Charlotte Steele in the late 1990s. In the past year or so, activity has been brisk.

“We’re down now to where we have 15 acres remaining out of 300 acres,” said Jim Irwin, the managing partner of Irwin Partners. “I think it’s an excellent place to be. The uptown area of Fayetteville is pretty hot. That whole area is experiencing rapid growth.

“Steele Crossing has been a real anchor. I like to refer to it as the engine for economic development in that area. We started out with a cow pasture.”

Easier Access

The area has received a double boost with the construction of a flyover bridge connecting College Avenue with the Fulbright Expressway that has an exit onto Steele Crossing, and with the completion of the east-west Van Asche Drive extension that connects Gregg Avenue with Highway 112. Steele Crossing now has two more feasible entry points, both of which make Interstate 49 more accessible as well.

The flyover, built by Emery Sapp & Sons of Springfield, Missouri, opened in the summer of 2014.

“If you look at an aerial [view], there is no longer any significant property available in Steele Crossing,” said Clinton Bennett, the managing broker of CBRE in Fayetteville. “Over the last 12 months, the majority of the land available over there has either gone under contract or sold. It’s no longer in play. It’s going to create an interesting situation because if you’re a retailer or multifamily developer or office developer, that used to be a fallback area to go to to acquire land.”

Bennett said he is interested in seeing how the area reacts to the influx of residential developments because of its strong retail presence. In addition to SREG’s complex, another residential development planned for Steele Crossing is under contract in the area.

“That area has been the retail center of northwest Arkansas for decades with the mall,” said Hudson, referring to the Northwest Arkansas Mall, which is just north of Steele Crossing. “There hasn’t been housing in the area. It has the biggest components of walkability: shopping, dining and employment.”

Hudson said Washington Regional Medical Center, located south of the Fulbright Expressway, gives some strength and stability to the entire uptown area. Access to I-49 means folks can more easily live in north Fayetteville and commute to work either in south Fayetteville or in Benton County.

Vision Realized

With Steele Crossing bustling to the point of filling up, Irwin is not one to say I told you so.

Irwin first started working on zoning changes for the cow pasture almost 20 years ago. The mall was up on the hill and there was a restaurant or two and a Walmart Supercenter in the area, but mainly there were a lot of empty lots and unfulfilled hopes.

“I hope it has accomplished everything the city had envisioned when we started down this road,” Irwin said. “Three hundred acres is a lot of land to eat up. It’s just well located. It has everything going on right there.

“Steele Crossing served as the motor for that part of the world. It is so well located, even when it was a farm with cattle running all over the place.”

Brian Shaw of Sage Partners is a believer in the area. The Shaw family recently paid more than $8 million for the Shoppes at Steele Crossing, a 6-acre shopping center on the northeast corner of Joyce and Steele.

“It’s a very, very good area,” Shaw said. “We feel it’s going to be a good retail area. It has truly become what it was meant to be. All the elements come into play: live, work, play, shop area.”

Spillover Effect

Uptown Fayetteville isn’t over when Steele Crossing fills up. The Van Asche extension, completed in September by APAC Central of Fayetteville, has opened up new possibilities west of Steele Crossing.

Tom Terminella, a Fayetteville real estate developer, owns 84 acres along the extension and represents WG Land Co. Ltd. Partnership, which owns approximately 160 more. Terminella believes the land can and will become Fayetteville’s next mixed-use development destination.

“It’s just a point between accessibility and supply and demand,” Terminella said. “There’s not a lot of competition. This is pretty much it for Fayetteville. It comes down to supply and demand.

“I view this as a commerce center for Washington County. It’s not like up north where you have thousands of acres.”

CBRE represents interests in the areas surrounding Steele Crossing and said the Van Asche extension is a good first step to opening up more areas. If the city continues to invest in infrastructure, who knows what would happen.

“There is more work to be done by the city to create the access to the Van Asche extension, but I think that extension is a major, major deal,” Bennett said. “Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, but if we have a similar conversation 12 months from now, the majority of our focus is going to be on that land south of the Van Asche extension. I think that is the next area to develop, and it’s going to be exciting to see what happens there.”

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