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The Bryant building boom: $10 million in building permits issued in 1991.

Bryant, with a 1990 population of 5,269, has become a pacesetter for growth in central Arkansas.

The city's population grew by 123 percent during the 1980s, and census forecasts indicate the number of residents will double again by the end of this decade.

By the year 2020, demographers expect the Saline County community to have a population of 26,350.

About 98 percent of Bryant's population is white.

A neighborhood school system has been a key factor in attracting families to Bryant as white flight continues to afflict Pulaski County.

But white flight isn't the only reason for Bryant's recent growth. A low cost of living in a small-town setting is perhaps the primary factor. Half of the new residents are new to central Arkansas.

Bryant has a well-deserved reputation as a bedroom community. Its small industrial base underscores that fact. Yet the city's success in attracting people who want to live there has given rise to an industry all its own.

"I contend that Bryant does have an industry, and it's called home building," says Bud Finley, the owner of Finley & Co., a real estate firm. "We had $10 million worth of building permits |issued~ last year. That has a tremendous ripple effect throughout the community."

One of the ripples has been in the day-care sector. Operations such as the Learning Center, Papoose Palace and Winieki Waddlers have opened as more working parents move to Bryant.

"We have a tremendous demand, and I don't know when it's going to stop," Finley says.

A demand for day-care services.

And a demand for housing.

According to a Metroplan study, "Demand for suitable housing has far exceeded the existing supply."

TABULAR DATA OMITTED

The last multifamily project to come on line was Westgate Apartments, a 41-unit complex built in 1989.

100 Percent Occupancy

Occupancy levels in the market hover at the 100 percent mark.

New subdivisions such as Bryant Meadows, Image Oaks, Edgewood, Dogwood, Carywood, Raintree Acres and Richardson Place fill up almost as soon as lots come on the market.

New homes have spurred activity on the commercial front as well. A Taco Bell Corp. site and a Wendy's International site sold for $5 per SF. Additional commercial developments will appear along Reynolds Road/Arkansas 183 as the state Highway and Transportation Department upgrades the road to five lanes.

"I moved here 15 years ago, and the number of subdivisions that have sprung up is just amazing," says Beverly Overturf, president of the Saline Home Builders Association, which covers Hot Spring, Grant and Saline counties. "I've seen more building activity during the past four years than in the other 11 years put together."

Bryant has seen the construction of 242 homes during just the past two years. The 1990 population signs already need replacing.

"Our population is probably about 6,000 now," says Bryant Mayor Roy Bishop.

His family's farm, which stood near the southeast corner of Interstate 30 and Arkansas 183, is now home to a Roadrunner Food Mart and other developments.

Not everyone welcomes the changes.

Some longtime residents wanted Bryant to remain the small town they once knew.

The November election will be a key to Bryant's future. All eight council members are up for re-election.

Battle lines likely will form over the issue of growth. The question is whether the city should be doing more to facilitate development. The recent arrivals represent the swing vote that could determine the outcomes of those races.

Even more impressive than the raw growth are the shifting demographics. The average income of families living within 1.5 miles of the Bryant exit on I-30 rose from $22,053 in 1980 to $34,900 in 1990.

The average age of residents living in the zone is 33.1, up from 29.8 in 1980. According to census data, about 80 percent of the residents are below the age of 50.

Growth Area

Bryant's next growth area should be north of I-30 along Arkansas 183 and then spreading out in either direction along Arkansas 5. The only thing holding back development is the necessary infrastructure.

Sewer services should be extended to the area by next spring.

One of the largest pieces of real estate in the path of this future growth is owned by Little Rock vice mayor and businessman Jim Dailey and his sisters, Kathy Hightower and Stephanie Kelley. Their property is along Arkansas 5, north of the intersection with Arkansas 183. Their father, Dalton Dailey, owns almost 100 acres at the southeast corner of the intersection.

"We're putting together the paperwork for a residential subdivision," Dailey says. "Within the next 60 to 90 days, we could be in the first stages of selling lots."

The 100-acre project will be developed in phases during a period of five to seven years. Preliminary plans are to market the lots at prices ranging from $18,000 to $30,000 with houses running from $100,000 to $200,000.

Such a development will no doubt send Bryant's household demographics even higher.

Dailey is the first to concede that his ownership presents a personal dilemma since as vice mayor he does not want to do anything that would hinder the growth of Little Rock. But his family's roots in the Bryant area go back several decades.

"Our family has had property down there since 1955," Dailey says. "In fact, I lived out there when I was in grade school."

Annexation has contributed greatly to Bryant's growth. The city won't grow northward, though, due to a 20-year agreement to buy water from Little Rock. Bryant needed water so badly that city officials were willing to halt expansion toward the Pulaski County line for the next two decades.

Even with this prohibition, there's plenty of room to the south and west. There lies Bryant's future, at least until the water agreement with Little Rock expires.
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Title Annotation:community in Saline County, Arkansas
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 6, 1992
Words:978
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