Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Open House Today 2-4 p.m.

Open house today at 2427 Summeroak in the Pinewood Subdivision north of Springdale. This home has everything that most folks want--over 3000 sf, 4 bedrooms plus office, 3.5 baths, 3-car garage, granite counters, 2 living areas, wood floors, crown molding, covered patio and more. $322,000. Pinewood subdivison is conveniently located and has a community pool and clubhouse, playground, and a pond for catch and release fishing. Smith Elementary and Harber High.

Directions: From I-540, take the Elm Springs exit, go east on Elm Springs Road, turn left (north) on 40th St., turn left (west on Falcon), turn right (north) on Pinewood. Turn right into subdivision. Turn right at T. House is toward the end of Summeroak on the right.

Getting from Here to There--Transportation in NW Arkansas

I came across an article the other day regarding a proposal for a high-speed, state-of-the-art rail line that might someday run between San Diego, California and Vancouver, B.C. While I don’t expect NW Arkansas will ever be ready for something like that, it did get me thinking (again) about the need to improve transportation in our area.

I’ve written about this problem before – but I don’t see a lot of significant progress.

For example, plans for a proposed light rail system in NW Arkansas don’t seem to be any further along than they were a couple of years ago. In fact, I don’t know if they’re still on the drawing board.

NW Arkansas is still very “car” oriented. There are decent bus lines but the funding is limited which means the routes are limited. The majority of folks in NW Arkansas have multiple vehicles and multiple garages to house them. Want to go to the movies? Get in the car! Want a hamburger? Get in the car! We bank from our car, get our prescriptions and other items at the drive-through. This love affair with the automobile will not help the new "Green" image NW Arkansas is trying to promote.

Meanwhile, traffic on I-540 and the connector roads during the rush hours grows worse by the day. I-540 needs to be widened to 6 lanes (3 north, 3 south). There’s good news lately about the Bella Vista bypass. Currently, the high-speed interstate ends in Bella Vista and cars and trailer trucks crawl through a town with several traffic lights. When the traffic finally reaches Missouri, the road once again becomes a high-speed highway. Lack of funding has delayed this project for years.

Now it appears the Arkansas and Missouri highway commissions will make a joint request for funds for the Bella Vista bypass from the $1.5 billion federal stimulus money being made available to states for major highway projects.

The proposed Hwy. 412 bypass north of Springdale was finally approved last year but doesn't have the money to even acquire the land--never mind actual construction.

My mother used to say "make hay while the sun shines." The sun is now glowing brighter than ever with the $787 billion economic stimulus bill Congress approved plus we have a sympathetic ear in Washington these days.

Those in positions to do something about the transportation situation in NW Arkansas should get on the stick and do whatever it takes to obtain funding for necessary infrastructure improvements. If we can’t get a light rail system up and running, we need to improve roads.

The city of Springdale has been proactive in developing alternative routes to Hwy. 412 for east/west transportation, which was always a nightmare, especially during rush hour. Huntsville Road is now almost done with 4-5 lanes from I-540 going east to Hwy. 412. The new Don Tyson Parkway across the south side of town was exceptional planning and now provides a great alternative to Hwy. 412. And work continues on another east-west road across the northern part of the city. Springdale has shown great foresight in passing bonds to get these improvements completed.

Rogers built a new exit from I-540 to the Pinnacle Hills Mall. Another example of foresight is the recently widened New Hope Road.

Bentonville improved S. Walton Blvd. from a little two-lane road to 5-lanes (and it’s jammed with traffic). I can’t imagine how that city could have grown as it has without widening that major road.

Contrast this to Fayetteville, where the ‘head in the sand’ mentality seems to prevail with regard to growth. The ‘Keep Fayetteville Funky’ folks would like that growth not happen, but it is happening and must be dealt with in a positive manner and with foresight. I don’t mean to imply Fayetteville hasn’t done anything. Indeed, the widening of Hwy. 16 West (Wedington) has really improved transportation to I-540. And in the near future, a similar project will widen Mt. Comfort Road.

On the other hand, getting from the east side of Fayetteville to the west side (or vice versa) is a nightmare. Having a mountain in the middle of town doesn't help, of course, but people rightfully expect to move expeditiously from one side of town to the other and funky little two-lane roads do not cut it.

The wider Joyce Blvd. is great, but we also need wider and easier access on the south end of town and through the middle of town. I can't picture a 4-5 lane through the historic district, so Township would seem to be IT in this regard. There was a proposal several years ago to make Township a 4-lane road from Crossover to Gregg Street. It was blocked by residents along that route, especially from College to Crossover, and I fully sympathize with property owners there. On the other hand, the few residents that this would have affected need to be cognizant of larger goals.

If we are proactive in transportation and infrastructure, our area will continue to be on national lists of "10 Best" places to live. If we keep burying our heads in the sand while hoping for a miracle, growth will come to a stand still along with the traffic.

This area is still growing and will continue to do so. Any major improvement will take years and lots of money to accomplish but if we formulate tangible plans and work with our elected officials in Washington, it might be possible to get moving. It’s time to get on the stick and do whatever it takes to obtain funding for necessary infrastructure.

If we can’t get a light rail system up and running, or at least a public bus system, we need to improve roads.

For more information:


Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st Quarter 2009 Skyline Report

On Friday, May 15, I attended the breakfast meeting at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Springdale where the first quarter 2009 Skyline Report highlights were presented. Kathy Deck, Director of the U of A Center for Business and Economic Research, talked about the NW Arkansas housing market—especially conditions in Washington County, and Scott Phillips, Senior Fixed Income Portfolio Manager for Arvest, talked about some trends in the national economy which give a ray of hope that the current recession may be starting a recovery.

According to Phillips, to date there have been $1.4 trillion in losses at global financial firms. The current estimate is that such losses will go to $3.4 trillion before the recession ends. Consumer confidence is still declining nationally, and as people save more, that’s actually bad for the economy, since they aren’t spending money. On a positive note, however, consumer debt and bank lending corrections are decreasing, but unemployment rates are still high and are expected to go higher.

In response to a question from the audience, Phillips noted that for people who have lost a lot of money in the stock market, the estimate is that it will take anywhere from 3.5 to 8 years to recoup those losses. He indicated that the lowest the stock market fell was on March 9 of this year and has been rising slowly since then. Normally, he said, stock prices bottom out before earnings.

He also indicated that although the economy remains in recession, credit conditions are slowly improving. It’s a good time to purchase stocks while they are still “slightly cheap.”

For the housing market segment, Kathy Deck began where she usually does, with employment numbers, since positive job growth is what normally attracts people to NW Arkansas. Those people, in turn, purchase homes and generally determine the condition of the real estate market, including residential, multifamily and commercial sales and rentals.

Whereas in the past, NW Arkansas seemed to be immune from the type of job loss that was occurring in other parts of the country, the first quarter of this year saw the destruction of about 1300 jobs here, a decline of approximately 1% in non-farm employment. The only sectors in which there was positive job growth were Education and Health, Professional and Business Services, and in the Leisure and Hospitality sector. All other types of employment experienced job loss. Government remained steady.

The commercial sector in NW Arkansas saw very little in the way of building permits in the first quarter, and the amount of available square footage rose in Fayetteville and Springdale, as well as in NW Arkansas as a whole.

For multifamily, the vacancy rates have risen. In Fayetteville this is because of new spaces being added, in the form of new apartment complexes being built. For Springdale, it is because of population movement away from the city.

In the residential sector, the number of building permits issued for Fayetteville is the lowest it has been for many years, less than 50 for the whole first quarter, compared to over 200 during each of the peak 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2005. For Springdale only about 25 residential building permits were issued during Q1, and in West Washington County (which includes communities such as West Fork, Prairie Grove, Lincoln, etc.) new building permits were essentially at zero for the quarter. Nevertheless, the value of the average building permit in NW Arkansas has been rising in Washington County to approximately $190,000.

Needless to say, the number of houses under construction in active subdivisions has also declined, as has the absorption rate. The number of available lots in active subdivisions also showed a small decline compared with Q1 of last year, a positive step. Also showing declines were the number of homes sold in Washington County during Q1 and the average price per house sold.

Unlike in the past, according to Deck, declines in absorption are now because people are not purchasing enough homes. In the past it was because of over-building. Because of the low number of building permits pulled in the first quarter, that is no longer the case.

Affecting the housing market, of course, is the large number of foreclosures (see my post of May 16). This is a major factor driving down home prices.

For more information, see also:


Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Few Observations about the NW Arkansas Housing Market

While some local economists are seeing a bright spot here and there, the rate of foreclosures in Arkansas continues to rise, and the real estate market in NW Arkansas still has a long way to go to get out of the hole it is in. According to Kathy Deck, director of the U of A Center for Business and Economic Research, in Benton County there are now 1500 bank-owned properties, up from 747 six months ago. In Washington County, the situation is not quite as bad with 548 bank-owned properties, up from 475 six months ago.

In April alone, there were 504 new foreclosures in Benton County according to RealtyTrac and 357 new foreclosures in Washington County. These are not the numbers anyone wanted to see. Nationally, one in every 440 U.S. homes received a foreclosure filing in February.

It could be worse. Nevada had the country's worst foreclosure rate in February: one in every 70 housing units, which is an astounding 156% increase from February 2008. Arizona's rate was second, one foreclosure for every 147 houses.

I don’t believe anyone ever expected to see such misery in the housing market!

On the other hand, there are some tremendous opportunities for buyers now. I believe there are some outstanding bargains these days whether for first-time home buyers or investors. The average price-per-square foot of homes sold so far in 2009 was $77, down 4.9% from January and 8.3% lower than a year ago. In some cases, homes are being sold at 20%-40% below their original asking price, which is not surprising given the fact that the majority of homes sold these days are distressed sales or foreclosures.
The question everyone asks me is: has the market bottomed out and started a slow climb up? My perception is that the answer is not yet, but we may be getting close.

Spring is here and more buyers are appearing. Sales throughout the country actually increased 5.1% in February. In April in Fayetteville, more homes were sold this year than last year, 85 this April compared to 75 last April.

The new federal tax credit of up to $8,000 is a windfall for qualified first-time homebuyers. Interest rates are at their lowest ever – under 5% APR for a 30-year fixed mortgage. And the feds are taking unprecedented steps to get the credit system working again.

It’s definitely a buyer’s market and the selection of homes in outstanding.

I always wanted to buy into the stock market when prices hit bottom and sell when it was at the top. I never managed to do that and neither has anyone I know.

It’s the same with buying a home – the biggest investment most folks will ever make. It’s a long-term investment that you can live in while weathering the ups and downs of the market. We may not be at the very bottom but I think we’re close!

For more information:


Do Your Kids Want to Play Basketball? Fayetteville is the Winning Place!

I’m a little late with this post, but we had an extraordinary event happen last month. There was a lot of celebratory noise coming from Fayetteville -- because of the high school basketball champions – two of them!

That’s right, both the Fayetteville High School boys and girls basketball teams became the new state champions. And not only that, they each went undefeated for the entire season.

The Lady Bulldogs team went 32-0 for the season and won the class 7-A Arkansas State Championship title by a 72-61 win over North Little Rock. (7A is the highest classification.)

Just a short two hours later, the Bulldogs (boys) capped their 30-0 season by a 40-34 victory over Rogers to win their 7A Championship title.

It’s not the first time a high school has won both boys and girls titles in the same season but for both teams to go undefeated and cap it off with the title of champion is almost unheard of. It is a first in Arkansas and may even be the first in the country.

I just want to say Congratulations (even if a little late)! Way to go!

For more information:



Sunday, May 03, 2009

NW Arkansas Positions Itself as a Leader in the Sustainability Movement

It wasn’t too many years ago that NW Arkansas was known as a rural farming area, if it was known at all. But Sam Walton had a small store in Bentonville – and you know the rest of the story.

As Wal-Mart grew by leaps and bounds, so did NW Arkansas. Wal-Mart’s major vendors started opening branches here and they and their families needed housing, schools, banking, hospitals, shopping centers, highways, sewer systems, and on and on.

The burgeoning population created the housing and construction boom which, of course, brought more families with more needs.

But the economic downturn around the country and the world caused folks in NW Arkansas to wonder if this growth could continue.

The answer may well be yes! Sustainability-based research and development has the potential to drive Northwest Arkansas for years to come and action is already underway to position itself as “Green Valley.” (Think California’s Silicon Valley 40 years ago.)

Fayetteville in particular has been a leader for living green. The city has had a recycling program for several years, recently won the Arbor Day Foundation’s award as “Tree City USA” for the 14th consecutive year, and frequently wins the Garden City award for cities of its size.

Those recognitions may be small compared to the overall sustainability movement, but it bodes well for the mindset of residents and local governments.

The University of Arkansas-Fayetteville has an Applied Sustainability Center already up and running.

Forbes Magazine ranked NW Arkansas as #4 in the entire country on their new list of Top 25 Best Places for Business and Careers.

Some companies that specialize in such things as ways to improve fuel efficiency, maximize resources, minimize environmental footprints, reduce greenhouse gases, and the world's dependence on fossil fuel have moved here to take advantage of both the favorable business climate and the sustainability movement.

A few companies from Sweden, long recognized as a leader in sustainability technology, have set up U.S. headquarters here. Several other Swedish firms are in the process of doing the same and still more are seriously investigating the possibility.

Perhaps we have to give another nod to Wal-Mart for taking the position 3 years ago to reduce waste to zero and make sustainability a priority. It takes time to achieve a goal that mammoth but the fact that they’re working on it has garnered attention around the world.

Wal-Mart has more than 1,300 locally based suppliers who answered the call to develop new packaging, logistics and other practices that are now spreading throughout the industry.
Even The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have recognized and published articles about what’s taking root in NW Arkansas.

The potential for NW Arkansas as a major player in the sustainability (green) movement is here and it’s very exciting!

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