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Too much of a good thing?: A $20 million retail project is on the drawing board for West Little Rock.

A proposed 300,000-SF to 350,000-SF shopping center in west Little Rock has been greeted with a precedent-setting wave of support.

No one can remember such a large rezoning request going before the Little Rock Planning Commission without someone speaking out against it.

Neighboring home owners did not oppose changing the site's multifamily and residential zoning. Without the modification, the $20 million project never would have left the drawing board. There was even a letter of endorsement from the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce.

The Little Rock Board of Directors will vote on the matter at its July 7 meeting, and city officials still have to review and approve development plans.

If the project progresses as planned, however, construction could start at the southwest corner of Bowman Road and Chenal Parkway as early as next year.

Two key questions remain:

* Does the Little Rock retail market need additional space?

* Will the rezoning lead to future compromises along the city's scenic corridors?

The average occupancy rate among 122 retail properties last year was 86.36 percent, according to figures compiled in the Arkansas Business Retail Lease Guide.

Jim Moses, president of AMR Real Estate Inc. of Little Rock, says the project won't pose a threat to existing retail developments.

"There are a lot of retailers that aren't south of the river simply because there aren't any good locations available," Moses says. "Of course, we're working primarily with large tenants. It's not envisioned that we will have very much small retail space."

The focus is on national tenants willing to lease a minimum of 25,000 SF. That would set the project apart from nearby retail developments.

AMR is helping assemble the 42.43-acre site and is handling rezoning details.

The property is in five ownership blocks. They are Bluebonnet Savings Bank of Dallas, 22.72 acres; Parkway West Ltd., of Dallas, 8.28 acres; the Mid-South District of the Lutheran Church in Memphis, Tenn., 4.8 acres; the Scott family of Little Rock, 4.65 acres; and the Brooks family of Little Rock, 1.98 acres.

The developer, Aronov Realty of Montgomery, Ala., is no stranger to Arkansas. It developed Pleasant Ridge Apartments in west Little Rock and the Hot Springs Mall.

Another Alabama developer, Folmar & Associates of Mobile, was the guiding force behind the 270,500-SF McCain Plaza in North Little Rock.

The Megamarket Shopping Center is the newest and largest retail operation in west Little Rock. The 168,000-SF project was developed in 1989-90 by Joe Whisenhunt of Bee Branch.

Two proposed Little Rock retail giants, Otter Creek Mall and The Summit, faded after Park Plaza and University Mall upgraded and expanded to 600,000 SF and 567,554 SF, respectively.

Otter Creek Mall (1.2 million SF) and The Summit (975,000 SF) would have dwarfed even North Little Rock's McCain Mall, the state's largest retail project at 854,284 SF.

Advocates of the new west Little Rock shopping center agreed to a detailed list of design modifications.

"That created a comfort level for the staff and commission," Moses says.

The commission had recommended denying the rezoning request if the developers failed to meet conditions such as limiting curb cuts, limiting signs and providing extra green space and landscaping.

But will this rezoning pave the way for increased commercialization along once-beautiful Chenal Parkway?

"No way," says Jim Lawson, director of Little Rock's Department of Neighborhoods and Planning. "... This is at a major intersection, and that's the only reason we even considered recommending the rezoning."

Traffic-count projections estimate that by the year 2010, the traffic volume at the Bowman Road-Chenal Parkway intersection will equal the current level of traffic at the intersection of Markham Street and University Avenue.

"What we have tried to promote in the past few years is node development rather than strip development," Lawson says. "This philosophy views commercial development around a major intersection as reasonable."

"Further down the parkway away from this commercial node, you can't use that argument."

Lawson is committed to the idea that Chenal Parkway will not become a mass of commercial development such as Rodney Parham Road. Mechanisms are in place to prevent what happened along Rodney Parham from happening again.

At the intersection of Bowman and Chenal, no dirt work or tree removal will be allowed until building permits are issued and the approved plan is implemented.

Still, some area residents fear strip commercial development along Chenal Parkway.

"Some people in Little Rock put cream in their coffee, but others use paranoia," Lawson says.

Those who advise caution point out that the northeast corner of Rodney Parham Road and Reservoir Road was to have been the location of a development retaining natural features. Once the zoning was granted, though, developers weren't required to follow up on their plan. The resulting hill scar is a lasting legacy of those days.

The city's planned unit development ordinance later was rewritten to give officials the flexibility to grant rezoning with restrictions. That paved the way for the type of development that might be coming to west Little Rock next year.

Continued From Page 21

11.07 percent; Coldwell Banker McKinney & Co., 7.79 percent; Real Estate Central of North Little Rock, 6.32 percent; Real Estate Central/Ward Gibson, 3.83 percent; and others, 19.48 percent.

Z-25 (Otter Creek)

The zone is bound by Baseline Road, the Pulaski County/Saline County line and Old Stagecoach Road.

Century 21 Reddick Co. of Little Rock held the top spot in this zone with 21.59 percent of an $825,200 market.

The average sales price of homes in Otter Creek was $78,127 in the first three months of this year, compared with $83,786 in the first quarter of 1991.

Other firms active in this area were McKay & Co., 20.76 percent; Century 21 Steve Pinter Realty, 20.06 percent; Bob Rosen Realty Co. of Little Rock, 9.42 percent; The T.L. Elliott Co. of Bryant, 6.33 percent; Clint Boshears Realty Co. of Little Rock, 6.22 percent; Coldwell Banker McKinney & Co., 4.07 percent; and others, 11.55 percent.

Century 21 Reddick Co. was the leading company in Otter Creek in the first quarter of last year with 29.05 percent of an $864,000 market.

The field was rounded out by Century 21 Steve Pinter Realty, 15.46 percent; McKay & Co., 10.65 percent; Real Estate Central/Ward Gibson, 10.11 percent; Riverland Realtors, 6.32 percent; Coldwell Banker McKinney & Co., 5.97 percent; Prudential McKay Properties, 4.03 percent; and others, 18.41 percent.

Z-28 (North Pulaski County) and Z-24 (Other Areas North of the Arkansas River)

The zones include all areas of the county north of the Arkansas River and east of Camp Robinson that aren't in North Little Rock, Sherwood or Jacksonville.

Real Estate Central of North Little Rock had 20.71 percent of a $2.29 million market.

The average sales price of homes in these zones was $51,224 during the first quarter of 1992, compared with $76,864 a year ago.

Following Real Estate Central were Sherwood Realty, 18.4 percent; Bart Gray Realty, 11.71 percent; Doug Wilkinson Realty Co. of Jacksonville, 8.28 percent; Brass Bell Realty, 7.08 percent; Jim Peacock Real Estate of Jacksonville, 6.2 percent; Real Estate Central of Jacksonville, 5.57 percent; and others, 22.05 percent.

Bart Gray Realty, with 26.82 percent of a $1 million market, was the top firm during the first quarter of 1991.

It was followed by Rector Phillips Morse, 15.72 percent; Brass Bell Realty, 11.58 percent; Real Estate Central of North Little Rock, 10.88 percent; Doug Wilkinson Realty Co., 7.16 percent; Sherwood Realty, 5.57 percent; Georgia Hollowell & Associates, 4.88 percent; and others, 17.39 percent.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Residential Real Estate
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 15, 1992
Previous Article:Driving to the green: Chenal Valley scores lot sales worth $14 million in West Little Rock.
Next Article:Selling Central Arkansas: Arkansas may be the only place that's a buyer's market.

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