Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Condo Mania in NW Arkansas--How Many is Too Many?

The debate has now been settled over whether the Divinity Hotel and Condos project can become reality. The newly-approved Divinity development has roused much controversy because of its size and scale in comparison to existing buildings in central Fayetteville. Its plans call for 30 condos and 137 hotel rooms above commercial space and restaurants.

A few years ago there wasn't a condo for sale in Fayetteville but that changed rapidly as developers began turning everything available into condos in central Fayetteville.

With the new mixed-use zoning plan expected to be approved soon, city planners anticipate turning Fayetteville into a "real city" with shops and commercial entities on the first floors of some of the new construction buildings, with condos upstairs.

There is already one large building under construction behind Dickson Street, and many older buildings have been already turned into condos, including the UArk Bowl, St. Joseph's Catholic Church and School, and others in the Dickson Street area.

Thanks in part to tax incremental financing (TIF), the abandoned Mountain Inn has been demolished and a new building has been approved for the site, conforming to the city's new guidelines. It will be known as the Renaissance building and its 18 stories will house a Marriott Hotel and condos.

The 9-story Lofts at Underwood Plaza is another new condo project located right on the square in Fayetteville. And the Legacy building is already underway, bringing 37 new condos to the Dickson Street area.

In addition, an apartment complex behind the NW Arkansas Mall (formerly Bristol Gardens, now called the Reserve at Steele Crossing) has gone through a condo-conversion and sales are underway. And there are new condos on Zion Road east of the mall for sale.

The problem is that land prices, especially in town, have risen so high that these condos are undoubtedly for an affluent group of people. The latest project to come before city planners calls for 20 condos, retail space and parking on a piece of land that is less than 1 acre in size. The land and existing building, which will be demolished, sold this year for $980,000.

Condos currently on the market in central Fayetteville are listed at close to $200 per square foot—certainly not for the average working person. Granted, many retirees who might be downsizing may have the money to pay these prices, as may some young, well-paid professionals who want to be within walking distance of restaurants and nightlife on Dickson Street.

I'm not arguing with the concept proposed by the planning commission--a vibrant center city where commercial entities are within walking distance. It's just that it seems that no one has asked the question, "will there be too many condos as a result"? Can Fayetteville's population absorb this large number of expensive multi-family units downtown?

A similar pattern is occurring in Benton County. Many condo complexes are being constructed in Rogers, and a development calling for three 15-story condos has been proposed for the shores of Beaver Lake. Much opposition has occurred for this project, leading to a question about what kind of development should occur near the lake.

A lesson could be learned from the folks in the Lake Tahoe area back in the 70s and 80s as lakefront condos proliferated. The pristine natural beauty was destroyed in some places due to lakefront condo complexes.

If you are concerned about condos, building heights, lakefront development or any other aspect of life in NW Arkansas, I urge you to make your voice heard. Stay informed, go to meetings, and take a stand. Your opinion counts.

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1 comment:

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