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Developers vie for new mall in Jonesboro.

IN 1994, TALK OF A GRAND, new mall was the rage in Jonesboro. Nine years later, it is still a popular topic of conversation.

But the only mall in town remains the venerable Indian Mall, developed in 1968 and named for the sports mascot of Arkansas State University.

The 328,253-SF project is home to a retailing triumvirate of Dillard's, J.C. Penney and Sears. This trio of anchor tenants also is listed as the would-be anchors for one of two new mall proposals.

But the question is which of the competing projects will be chosen: the 961,000-SF Southern Hills Mall by

Warmack & Co. LLC of Texarkana, Texas, or a 739,000-SF project dubbed The Mall of Turtle Creek by Belz-Burrow Development Group of Jonesboro.

"We're continuing to get our site ready," said Matt Lukas, business manager for Warmack & Co. "We're still working with the anchors on commitments."

"We're going to let the tenants make their own announcements," said Bruce Burrow, partner in Belz-Burrow Development.

Both mall groups have encountered false starts in the past.

Back in 1994, Belz-Burrow was shooting for a spring 1997 opening of a new mall. That didn't happen.

Belz-Burrow hopes to get things rolling by next spring on a 70-acre site at the northeast corner of Stadium and Highland drives, once home to a Charolais cattle farm.

Time and lease commitments will tell whether the location becomes The Mall of Turtle Creek, developed in a partnership with David Hocker & Associates Inc. of Owensboro, Ky.

"I can tell you I think we'll do a deal on our property," Burrow said. "But I can't tell you exactly what that deal will be."

David Hocker, president of his namesake commercial realty firm, couldn't be reached for comment.

Belz-Burrow and Hocker & Associates are partnering to develop The Shoppes at North Hills, an $80 million retail center planned in North Little Rock.

A Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is the only named anchor retailer to surface for the 866,000-SF project at the southwest corner of Interstate 40 and North Hills Boulevard. At last report, phase one of The Shoppes at North Hills is scheduled to be completed in fall 2004, with remaining phases completed by spring 2005.

Warmack & Co., which owns Indian Mall, hopes to hang onto its roster of retail tenants by developing Southern Hills Mall.

Warmack officials have said the project will have a two-story Dillard's store three times as big as its current 75,000-SF operation in Indian Mall and larger quarters for Sears and J.C. Penney as well as a Target store.

Plans and name-dropping notwithstanding, the new Warmack mall still falls under the category of proposed.

Dirt work on the hilly site at the southwest corner of U.S. 49 and Wood Road is moving forward, but details (i.e. signed tenants and a solid construction schedule) did not come forth as promised in June.

This delay followed a 2001 pronouncement by Warmack that its new mall was projected to open in October 2003. Back then, the development was characterized as a 600,000-SF mall. Two years ago, John Warmack described the $55 million mall as a replacement for Indian Mall, which was to be converted to non-retail use.

Completion of the project was to coincide with the completion of widening U.S. 49 from two lanes to five. That roadwork improvements are set to be finished in spring 2004.

Plans and time-tables obviously have changed. What's the latest target date for launching construction of Southern Hills?

"That's up to the anchor tenants," said Warmack's Lukas. "They kind of drive a project of this size."

It should come as no surprise that Dillard's is considered to be in the driver's seat in determining which of the competing Jonesboro malls will become reality.

Dillard's is in a similar position regarding the proposed Summit Mall in west Little Rock, which is mired in legal difficulties.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in November on an appeal of a ruling last year by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce that put the project in limbo.

Dillard's is the lead tenant in the proposed Summit Mall, and like the proposed Jonesboro mall, Sears and Penney's have signed up as part of the development mix.

The retailing triad are familiar names in the lineup of other Warmack retail projects including Central Mall in Fort Smith (966,000 SF), Central Mall in Texarkana, Texas, (568,000 SF) and Central Mall in Port Arthur, Texas, (563,000 SF).

The company also owns Central Mall in Salina, Kan.; Central Mall in Lawton, Okla.; and Arrowhead Mall in Muskogee, Okla., along with 50 other retail and warehouse properties in 12 states.

Originally headquartered in Fort Smith, Warmack & Co. relocated in 1989 to Texarkana, Texas. The move followed founder Ed Warmack's relocation to take advantage of the personal income tax exemption.

The Belz-Burrow partnership owns a dozen operational retail projects in Arkansas, five of which are in Jonesboro: Bernard Court, Caraway Shopping Center, Crossroads Center, Ridgepark Centre and Marketplace Shopping Center.

Other retail centers include Chickasaw and Porter Commons in Blytheville, West Pointe Center and Town West Center in Paragould, The Shoppes at Rockwood in Cabot and Air Park Commons in Jacksonville.

Burrow's partnership with Belz Enterprises of Memphis dates back to 1991. Belz, founded more than 50 year's ago by Philip Belz, is one of the largest retail/industrial developers in the South.

Company holdings encompass 30 million SF of developed property including more than 40 shopping complexes, ranging from regional malls and community shopping centers to factory outlet malls, as well as hotels, office, industrial and apartment developments.

The bulk of the company portfolio is in Memphis, with additional projects scattered in Nashville and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; St. Augustine and Orlando, Fla.; Puerto Rico; New York; Boston; Greenville, S.C.; Dallas; and Little Rock.

For now, there is no official word on who has the upper hand in assembling a tenant roster to make a new Jonesboro mall happen, Warmack or Belz-Burrow.

For what it's worth, a source in the Dillard's camp indicated the nod is going to the Belz-Burrow project. He expected the development picture to become much clearer during the next six months.

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Title Annotation:Arkansas
Comment:Developers vie for new mall in Jonesboro.(Arkansas)
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 3, 2003
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