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  • As seen in the Daily Record

Making LR Metro The Place To Be

There’s been a lot of buzz about Trader Joe’s coming to Little Rock. Repurposing of existing retail building has been a recurring topic in this column. All the drama in the media about the “retail apocalypse” is, and has been, overblown. There has been a tectonic shift in the retail landscape and thing have most certainly changed. Physical retail hasn’t ended, though. Witness Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and their move to test physical stores. Dozens of online retailers have started opening brick-and-mortar locations. The latest word, and it isn’t new—it’s been used for several years now, is “omnichannel.”

“Omni” as in “omnipresent.” Merriam Webster tells us that omnipresent means “present in all places at all times.” Retailers are present in physical stores, on websites, and on ads in every social media space imaginable. On top of that, retailers are in your pocket, in your purse, and on your countertop. ESPECIALLY if you have left all the privacy settings in default mode on your phone and in your apps. Your phone and your home assistants are listening to you. Heck, your phone is tracking you. My friend DJ and I were leaving dinner and her phone popped up a text screen and asked her how she enjoyed the restaurant, and did she want to rate her experience there. Then it suggested some other restaurants to try.

I’m a slow adopter AND I’m creeped out by my phone spying on me, so I have location services enabled on as few apps as possible. I don’t use GPS. When I started in this business if you had a mobile phone it was a “bag phone,” or maybe a “flip phone.” Phones didn’t have GPS. Heck, only the most expensive cars had GPS and those had CD players in the trunk where the base maps where stored. (Some of you remember CD players.) With all the driving from building to building and shopping center to shopping center I’ve done during 25 years in this business, I am my own GPS. I’ve run down a rabbit hole here—back to the topic of retail.

Most retailers (and restaurants), if they continue to grow long enough, will eventually bring a location to Little Rock. There was a day that if a business was going to open a location in Arkansas, they would come to Little Rock first. That day is gone. Sometimes the business is going to open in another part of Arkansas first. That’s a discussion for another time, though.

Once a week probably, I am asked about Costco coming to Little Rock. Costco has been looking at Little Rock locations for years. Much like the glass slipper, they haven’t found exactly the right fit. Before you start emailing me, I don’t “know” where Costco is going. I know where they’ve been looking, and gossip is that there is a front-runner location. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. The same thing is true with Top Golf. There’s so much gossip on Top Golf’s location that people in Dallas have heard that Little Rock is getting a Top Golf location. AND…, they think they know where it is going to be located. Again, don’t ask me. I’m not gonna repeat gossip—well, I’m not going to repeat gossip in this column anyway.

This is a very long way around to say that retailers and restaurants (I’d really like to see a Torchy’s Tacos open in Midtown by the way) will eventually get to Little Rock. One way to see new and exciting concepts come to Little Rock more quickly is to focus on growing the economic base in Little Rock and moving Little Rock up on all the “good” lists. Little Rock (and I’m talking about the entire metro) has been making some pretty good lists lately. To keep that going and to build on it, there must be a focus on schools. Every single grade, every single subject and vocation, from Kindergarten to medical school should be important to everyone in the area.

And providing well-paying jobs to all is another key. Public safety and public works (including ALL types of transportation) are additional keys. All these things, and more, go into place-making. Place-making is simply creating somewhere that people WANT to be. Let me climb down from my soap box with this parting thought—community building is not just about the built environment. That’s only part of it. The bigger picture is building lives & homes (BLH).

It appears to me that the summer doldrums are behind us, business-wise anyway. I’m expecting to have so many interesting things to write about in the fourth quarter! There are several things I know are on the verge of closing. I’ll share them when I can. Among the things I can share is the news about the former Alltel, nee Verizon, building in Riverdale that the State of Arkansas decided to occupy when plans didn’t go as hoped. We touched on that in this column a while back. That is going to have an impact on the Little Rock office space market as the three hundred thousand feet or so of agencies move and leave landlords looking for new tenants.

In the transactions, Lot 6 of The Promenade at Chenal traded last month for $10 per square foot. This is a pad at the St. Vincent Way entrance to the shopping center, behind Home Goods. As a pad, it has some improvements already completed. Frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t fetch more. Another thing that surprised me is the sale of Woodland Heights. I didn’t know that the senior living facility was on the market, but it makes sense. There’ve been scads of multi-unit housing sales in the past few years. At the core of the use, this is multi-unit housing, with services and amenities for seniors. The Pulaski County Assessor says that there are 146 units at the property. With the recorded selling price of $37,750,000 that works out to be around $258,500 per unit. I don’t profess to know a single thing about senior living communities, so I have zero idea if that represents a premium or a discount. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, shoot me a note. I’m always interested in the things I don’t know, which are many. Another thing I don’t know is how much money has been spent on improvements and renovations to Crestwood Manor Apartments in the last 11 years. What I do know that the 218-unit complex sold for $4,430,000 eleven years ago, sold twice more in between, and sold last month for $11,250,000. That is nearly three times the price, as this last sale works out to be $51,605 per unit.

There were a few other things I thought were interesting that I’ll save for the next column. I’ve used up my allotment of space this month with my editorializing. Tips and suggestions, well most of them anyway, are appreciated. Hope you found something interesting in the column this month. Check back again next month for the things that didn’t get included here this time and that pop up between now and then.

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