Mercy! Had business in Rogers a couple of times in the past month. It had been a few months since I’d been up there. Folks, you blink and a subdivision of homes or an office building gets built. There is a special kind of gravity there that is pulling jobs and people to the northwest corner of the state. There was red dirt everywhere. For those of you that aren’t familiar with “red dirt,” that’s what construction sites are. Site work for office buildings, medical buildings, retail buildings, etc. … shows off the red dirt. Here’s hoping that the next Mayor of Little Rock has a look at Northwest Arkansas and gets a serious case of FOMO.
There was an interesting conversation over coffee last month about the merger of Deltic Timber with PotLatch. The gist of the discussion was a wonder if the new, merged, company will continue to develop Chenal Valley with an attention to quality as it has for the last 40 years. A letter sent out by a representative of Chenal Properties said in part, “Your contacts at our company have not changed. You will continue to work with us as you have in the past. Our residential and commercial real estate operations will continue to operate as Chenal Properties. The recreational real estate business will operate as PotlatchDeltic.” In my twenty-something years in Little Rock commercial real estate, I have listened to many professionals’ comments on Deltic Timber’s tight management of residential and commercial land supply. In over fifteen years spent on the Little Rock Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment I’ve seen many plats, subdivisions and planned commercial developments of high quality proposed and completed in Chenal Valley. Deltic Timber’s development of Chenal Valley, and the succeeding annexations of the valley and areas surrounding it, are arguably the difference between Little Rock having an increase in population since 1980, and not. Deltic Timber made Chenal Parkway possible. Deltic Timber created Rahling Road. The development of Chenal Valley spurred development in The Villages of Wellington, The Ranch, and all along Arkansas Highway 10.
Over the years many Little Rock residents, especially those already residing in Chenal Valley, have bemoaned various projects proposed, and developed on Deltic Timber land sold by Chenal Properties. When Walmart proposed to build a store at the intersection of Chenal Parkway and AR Highway 10 there were many people that compared it to the end of the world. (I’m sure none of those people have ever shopped there.) Dire warnings of doom have accompanied many subsequent projects in and around Chenal Valley. Look, though, at the quality of construction that has been demanded by Chenal Properties and the accompanying property owners’ associations. Using that Walmart as an example, how many retail stores of any kind do you see constructed with a real brick façade on all four sides? What if that store had been built, like so many are, as a metal building? What if instead of having a master plan (easily found on the Chenal Properties website), multiple bills of assurance for residential properties and commercial properties, and an architectural control committee comprised of residents and professionals, random chunks of land were sold to the highest bidder to do with however they might be able to get approved by the city? I suggest to you that there would be a higher probability of general chaos and a corresponding reduction of high-quality development. Many of you who have read this far may be wondering, “What’s the point, Jeff?” Well, Chenal Properties is THE market maker for all of Chenal Valley. Supply of new product is controlled by Chenal Properties and demand is strongly affected by the marketing, prospecting and pricing of their properties. Pause and consider how things in West Little Rock might change if land prices in Chenal Valley are dropped in favor of converting inventory into cash. Changes in the land market easily translate into changes in the market for existing houses. Home prices, often a family’s largest investment, can rise and fall with market conditions. Examples abound.
Maybe this got mentioned a couple of months ago and maybe not. Riverdale will soon trade the old Shogun’s building for a new Starbuck’s. Should be open by early summer. Down the street in the former location of Riverside Motors, a Service King Collision Repair location opened recently. Keep an eye on the former Dixie Café location a block away. I understand it is under contract. No scoop here, though. Let’s hope all the former Dixie Café locations are repurposed, and re-staffed, sooner rather than later.
Thank you to readers for the comments and questions regarding my thoughts on the difference between central Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas in job creation. As I did in my responses, I’ll note here that there are others smarter than me you should ask. It’s time to ask some of those questions.
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.