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Rebuilding himself

Collins Haynes left his mark on Northwest Arkansas, designing some of the region's most recognizable buildings and partnering in many key commercial real estate ventures. Today, he's wadding through a

By Bill Bowden

This article was published July 31, 2011 at 12:00 a.m.

Collins Haynes, seen in this 2002 file photo, designed more than 4.7 million square feet of constructed space in Northwest Arkansas.

— For years, Rogers architect and developer Collins Haynes tried to avoid bankruptcy and pay his debts.

In July 2010, he gave in.

The man who helped revitalize downtown Rogers and redefine the city’s western skyline filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, claiming $25.9 million in debt and $2.3 million in assets. Chapter 7 allows for the liquidation of assets to pay off creditors.

Filing for bankruptcy was a terrible thing, Haynes said.

“The one thing I had going for me is I had been through worse mentally in my life,” he said.

Haynes, 61, has had two heart attacks, had a 1,000-pound warehouse door fall on him and nearly lost his leg to a lawnmower blade.

Haynes has designed more than 4.7 million square feet of built space in Northwest Arkansas.

Haynes said he had a net worth of about $36.5 million at the peak, in 2002, but that figure is based largely on appraised property values. It includes $26 million in real estate, but Haynes said he had $18 million in mortgages at the time.

The bankruptcy has yet to be discharged.

Most of the debt, Haynes said, involved real estate in which he owned a percentage, but in the bankruptcy filing he had to list the total amount owed on the property by all investors.

Most of Haynes’ listed debt — $10 million — was to Metropolitan National Bank of Bentonville. Barry Jackson, a spokesman for Metropolitan, said the bank had no comment because Haynes “is still a customer of the bank.”

Haynes’ annual income went from $1.8 million in 2008 to $33,002 in 2009, according to one bankruptcy filing. But Haynes indicated $1.7 million of the 2008 figure was “phantom income,” meaning it was offset by mortgages and other expenses.

Haynes said he had invested in 32 limited liability companies, each representing a separate piece of real estate, “and I was in a negative collateral position on all of them.”

He said he no longer has a financial interest in any real estate. He rents an apartment in Rogers and lives a simple life.

“Right now, I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “I’m able to make a living, and making a living is all I wanted to do. Money is not the end all and be all of life. There is some peace to be had knowing that it’s just you now. I’m one of the few people around who loves what he’s doing. I love designing buildings and doing architecture.”

That peace wouldn’t be possible without forgiveness, Haynes said.

“Unless we start forgiving people for stuff, we can’t move forward,” he said. “I had a lot of anger, and I had to let that anger go.”

Learning Lessons

Haynes said the most important lesson he learned from his business ventures was “Always have an exit plan.”

The real estate bust that began in 2007 forced many prominent developers in Northwest Arkansas to file for bankruptcy, including Brandon Barber and John David Lindsey.

But Haynes said he could have weathered the real estate recession. His main problem was a business deal that went bad.

“I didn’t fail because of real estate,” Haynes said. “I got slammed because of trust and being betrayed.”

Haynes was the initial developer of Rogers’ Pinnacle Point, a 17-building office park in west Rogers that contained an upscale grocery store called the Market at Pinnacle Point.

Built in 2000, the store provided a focal point for the development and for Northwest Arkansas.

Fresh fish was flown in daily, and the store stocked more than 250 cheeses. The Market at Pinnacle Point was a place to have lunch and lattes, to talk business over sushi and sandwiches. It served a growing affluent demographic as suppliers to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. opened offices in Northwest Arkansas.

Haynes invested about $2 million in MarketFoods Ltd., which owned the Market at Pinnacle Point and similar stores in Tulsa and a Chicago suburb.

He said he was a passive shareholder. The business was run by Rich Donckers, who for six years had been vice president for food retailing at Wal-Mart.

Haynes and Donckers each owned one-third of MarketFoods, according to the company’s bankruptcy filing. The other third was split among several investors.

MarketFoods and its major shareholders — except for Haynes — filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

Haynes signed guarantees for the company’s debt and creditors came after him for about $23.5 million they claimed MarketFoods owed. So far, Haynes said he’d paid $6 million in cash related to MarketFoods’ bankruptcy.

Haynes said he trusted Donckers to operate the business.

“This guy’s resume reads like he is the guru of all things retail food,” Haynes said. “Sam Walton hired him personally.”

Haynes said he received only “rosy” financial projections from Donckers. He said he knew the company would lose money for the first couple of years, but he didn’t know how bad the situation was. Haynes said he was surprised by details that came to light with the MarketFoods bankruptcy filing.

“What I didn’t know is the scope of the losses.” Haynes said. “I didn’t realize until the bankruptcy what my exposure was on the guarantees.”

MarketFoods lost $1.7 million from 2000-03, according to one of Haynes’ income tax filings for 2004. Haynes said he only became aware of that cumulative loss when MarketFoods filed for bankruptcy in 2005. MarketFoods didn’t file tax returns for 2004 because of the bankruptcy.

Donckers said Haynes “knew exactly where we were” financially.

“He knew what the losses were,” said Donckers. “He signed the leases for both real estate and equipment. He knew what we were on the hook for. He got short-term projections for cash needs. There’s nothing more I could have done. Projections, in any business, are not fact. All it is is a projection, a ‘guesstimate’. I can’t project the future with certainty.”

Standing up

Sharon King Davis, co-owner of KingsPointe Village shopping center in Tulsa, remembers Haynes as a good guy in the MarketFoods meltdown.

After MarketFoods closed its store in Tulsa and filed for bankruptcy, Haynes worked with KingsPointe to settle the debt with that shopping center, said Davis.

“He was the one who stood up like a man,” she said.

Haynes said he struggled for six years to settle MarketFoods’ debts.

Haynes said he worked with his creditors to pay off all his debts. What he couldn’t pay was included in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Part of the unpaid amount was related to a U.S. District Court judgment for a planned store in Kansas City, Kan., that was never built.

In a filing from the Kansas case, Haynes’ attorney argued that Haynes was having financial hardship because of the economy, an inability to sell commercial property, relinquishing deeds in lieu of foreclosure and tenants negotiating for lower rents. Also, Haynes had undergone three kidney operations and was caring for his elderly parents, the court document stated.

According to the filing, Haynes had cut his staff from 12 to two, moved into a smaller office and was living in an 800-square-foot apartment. But Haynes was still working a minimum of 14 hours a day, beginning every day at 4 a.m., in an attempt to pay off the debts, according to the document.

Haynes said he gave up all of the equity he had in every project he was working on to satisfy judgments against MarketFoods.

“All of the liquidity I had, all of the residual equity I had in 15 years worth of work, was taken in this settlement,” he said.

Haynes managed to fend off his own personal bankruptcy until 2010. Why didn’t he file in 2005 with the rest of MarketFoods major shareholders?

“It just wasn’t in me to leave people hanging,” Haynes said. “If my name was on it, even though it was somewhat ignorant what I’d done, pledging my guarantee, I had to live with it. I had to live with what I’d done.”

Nights in White Satin

Harold Collins Haynes Jr. was born July 5, 1950, in Jackson, Miss. His parents met while working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, home of the top secret Manhattan Project during World War II.

When Haynes was 5 years old, his family moved to the New Orleans area. It was at their home in Kenner, where the 11-year-old Haynes was cutting grass and the lawnmower’s blade flew off.

“It almost severed my leg,” he said.

A neighbor wrapped Haynes in a painting cloth and ran three blocks carrying him to a doctor’s office.

“They kind of put my leg back together,” Haynes said. “I had to wear a full-leg cast for a year and three months. To this day, I’m still trying to correct my posture.”

He didn’t let the injury slow him down.

“When I was growing up as a kid, I was always drawing pictures of buildings,” said Haynes.

When Haynes was about 9 years old, his mother gave him a drafting set.

“What happened was I got pretty good at it,” he said.

At 14, he became an Eagle Scout. With an IQ of 163, which is considered genius-level, Haynes attended St. Martin’s Preparatory School, a private school in Metairie, La.

By high school, he was getting paid for his skill as an artist.

At 17, Haynes did the line art for the cover of the Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed, a 1967 record that contained the hit song “Nights in White Satin.”

Executives from Deram Records saw a design he had done for an alternative newspaper and asked Haynes to draw an adaptation of it for the album cover, which was painted by David Anstey.

Haynes also designed posters for bands that came through New Orleans on concert tours, selling about 600 posters at each concert. At $1.50 each, it was good income for a high school student.

Haynes studied architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans where he was elected to posts in student government.

In 1971, Tulane students took over the student union demanding more involvement in decisions made by the university administration. Haynes said there was a picture of the event in Newsweek magazine, “and there I am chained to a fire hydrant.”

Intervention

After graduating from Tulane in 1973, Haynes went to work for Walk Jones & Francis Mah Inc., an architecture firm in Memphis.

“The firm of Walk Jones & Francis Mah was very influential in the evolution of modern architecture in Memphis and very successful in the buildings they designed, not only in the region, but outside the region as well,” said Keith Kays, a Memphis architect who worked for Jones & Mah from 1967-71.

“Memphis in that period of time was very much a leader in what was happening with architecture in the South.”

Haynes said Mah, who was from Hawaii, would go barefoot to Memphis restaurants for lunch.

“He was the recognized design Buddha of Memphis,” said Haynes. “Wherever we went, it was like star power. He was recognized.”

Haynes designed several buildings in Memphis. He planned and designed the 300,000-square-foot Shelby State Community College in downtown Memphis and The Commercial Appeal’s Memphis Publishing Co. building. He also was project architect for the renovation of Union Station in Nashville. The train station built in 1900 is now a hotel.

By 1980, Haynes had decided he had a drinking problem. He decided to leave Memphis and Mah.

After a speaking engagement in Eureka Springs, where he was talking about investment tax credits, Haynes decided he wanted to move to Northwest Arkansas.

“When I came over, I thought ‘Oh my God, there are no mosquitos, there’s clear water, the outdoors. I’ve got to find a way to move here,’” said Haynes.

He took a job with Crafton-Tull in Rogers later in 1980. That same year, Haynes was approached by a broker from Merrill Lynch about restoring the Poplar Plaza building in downtown Rogers.

When Crafton-Tull found out Haynes had done that work on the side, they fired him, Haynes said. Matt Crafton, president of the company, confirmed that Haynes worked there but he wouldn’t comment about his departure.

But Haynes found more work.

He designed the renovation of Nelson Leather Co. on Spring Street in Eureka Springs. That led to the restoration and renovation of the seven-story Wadsworth Building in the Carroll County tourist town.

Haynes served as a visiting professor at the University of Arkansas’ School of Architecture from 1983-86. After that, he did residential architecture, designing 16 houses at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

One day in 1990, Haynes showed up for work, and there were 20 people in his office. They told him he needed to get help for his drinking problem.

Haynes spent the next three weeks in a state-run detoxification facility in Benton.

Homer Means of Rogers, a friend of Haynes’ remembers the time well.

“It got him back on the road, got him out of the swamp he was in,” said Means. “He was a pretty bad alcoholic at that time.”

Drying out was traumatic. Haynes had delirium tremens, which can accompany withdrawal from alcohol.

“I’m in bad shape physically,” Haynes said. “This problem I have is getting really intense. I’m told later I went into cardiac arrest twice. ...

“When I get out, I made up my mind, I decide that’s it. I will never ever put myself through that again. My whole life changed.”

Haynes said he was divorced, alone and needed to start over.

Haynes’ first marriage, when he was in college, had given him two children, Hunter, 33, of Fayetteville, and Lyndall, 31, of Rogers. Haynes’ second marriage, in 1992, also ended in divorce.

Hunter Haynes also worked for his father.

“I love him,” Hunter Haynes said. “Being with him has helped make me who I am today. He’s one of the smartest guys I know.”

Rebuilding

Haynes said word got around Northwest Arkansas that he’d had a drinking problem.

At first, people didn’t trust him.

“When you’re a recovering alcoholic, you have to really rebuild and re-establish the trust of others,” he said. “And it took me years to do that.”

Haynes said he created his own work renovating buildings he invested in.

He teamed up with David Bogle and bought eight buildings along First Street in downtown Rogers in 1990. Haynes bought out Bogle’s interest six months later.

The storefront buildings had been vacant for years before Harris Bakery bought them in the 1970s and expanded into them. In 1993, the bakery moved to a new building, leaving the historic remnants downtown.

Haynes designed and built a four-story building at 222 First Street for use as an office. Haynes took the top floor. SC Johnson Wax, a Wal-Mart vendor, leased the rest of the building.

Historian James Hales said Haynes saved many of downtown Rogers’ historic buildings.

“Collins Haynes has restored more buildings downtown than anybody,” said Hales. “I think he has done more than anybody to keep all the historical buildings functional downtown. A lot of them he took over and restored would have been torn down if he hadn’t done that.”

Gradually, Haynes won back the trust of the business community.

Haynes said Harriet Washburn of Rogers gave him his first opportunity after the intervention. She hired Haynes in 1991 to design Beau Chene Farms, a 12-lot equestrian enclave in Rogers. He also designed two of the houses in Beau Chene, which was the first gated neighborhood in Rogers.

Soon, Haynes said he had “a tremendous amount of work” to do.

He designed the first 10 buildings in Beau Terre, the first office park in Bentonville specifically designed for Wal-Mart vendors.

Haynes also designed all 14 buildings in Commerce Centre, a commercial development near Wal-Mart’s home office.

“We were a unique architectural firm because we didn’t compete with other architects,” he said. “Everything we drew we had an ownership interest in.”

Haynes said he architecturally designed every building he developed except for the Aloft hotel in Rogers’ Metro Park.

“The reason people wanted us is we understand a basic philosophy that few do,” he said. “You can draw anything, but will it attract tenants and cash flow?”

Not only did the buildings he designed have to be aesthetically pleasing, they “had to be less expensive so our rent basis was at or below the competition,” said Haynes.

Haynes said his life changed in other ways, too.

He said he has become more empathetic toward others who are having problems. He has served as a sponsor for 12 people who were dealing with addictions.

“I would do nothing more than talk,” Haynes said. “It made me very cognizant of the human condition.”

In the late 1990s, a 1,000-pound warehouse door fell on Haynes while he was renovating a building at the corner of Walnut and Arkansas streets in Rogers. Haynes said the rolling door was 12-by-12 feet and four inches thick.

“The door pops loose from the top and starts coming down,” he said. “I laid down real quick on the steps, and the door slammed on the steps and slid over me. All I got was a bruised head. It took two back hoes to lift the door off of me.”

Haynes said he was trapped underneath the door for an hour and a half.

“Everybody thought I was dead,” he said.

The Pinnacle

In 1998, Haynes said he and Dave Watson, a former Wal-Mart vendor, bought eight acres from the Walsh family and developed the first five lots in what was to become Pinnacle Point, on the west side of Interstate 540 in Rogers. Watson later sold his portion to Haynes, and Haynes partnered with the Walsh family on another 20 acres of contiguous land at the site.

The first two buildings to go up in Pinnacle Point were the five-story Tower One and the Market building, at a combined cost of $5 million.

Haynes said everyone in Benton County questioned what he was doing because Tower One was the first multi-story building in the area.

“A Wal-Mart vendor told me, ‘You’ll never get a vendor to go in there because it looks nice, it looks new, it looks expensive,’” Haynes remembers.

But attitudes were changing. Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart had died in 1992, and gradually the austere ideology of Wal-Mart culture was giving way. Haynes leased space to several Wal-Mart vendors, beginning with Mars Inc., the candy company.

Three years later, a second five-story tower was built at Pinnacle Point.

Bill Schwyhart, a BMW dealer, joined Haynes on the Pinnacle Point project in 1999, the year ground was broken on the first two buildings in the development.

The development known as Pinnacle Point went from Cross Church at Pinnacle Hills north to Lewis and Clark Outfitters.

In 2000, Haynes, Schwyhart and four other partners planned to build a $16 million, four-story Sheraton hotel adjacent to Pinnacle Point. But John Q. Hammons, the Springfield, Mo., hotelier, bought them out.

Hammons then built a $50 million, nine-story Embassy Suites hotel on a different parcel atop a nearby hill so the hotel would be more visible to motorists on Interstate 540.

In 2003, the trucking magnate J.B. Hunt joined Haynes and Schwyhart as a partner, and the developers began using the name The Pinnacle Group. Tim Graham and Robert Thornton also became partners that year in The Pinnacle Group, which split up after Hunt’s death in 2006. Graham is now president of Hunt Ventures LLC. Thornton has been Schwy-hart’s partner on several projects.

One day, Haynes watched J.B. Hunt buy a multimillion-dollar jet on the spot. Haynes decided then that things were moving too fast, so he sold his interest to the other four investors in 2004 “for several million dollars,” said Haynes.

“Collins is a very talented architect,” said Schwyhart. “I think Rogers will always be a better place for his design, especially on the west side of Rogers and downtown also. He had a lot to do with the renovation of First Street years ago. He’s one of the most talented architects I know.

“We were partners in several deals. We ended up buying him out. Collins is a good man. I think Collins contributed a lot. This financial tsunami we had affected a lot of people.”

Since the recession began, Schwyhart has filed for Chapter 11 business bankruptcy and has been evicted from both his office and home near Pinnacle Country Club.

Schwyhart said the development done during the boom will last for years.

“It will become a defining time in our history,” he said. “I’m glad we had people step up and make a difference.”

After selling his interest in Pinnacle Point, Haynes turned his attention to a new commercial development on Horsebarn Road in Rogers. The 75-acre Metro Park now contains 22 buildings, 14 of which were designed by Haynes.

Haynes has designed office space for 261 Wal-Mart vendors.

“He just was able to make things happen, which was very appealing particularly to the Wal-Mart vendor community who were looking for better office opportunities than they have had in the past,” said Tommy Van Zandt, managing partner of the real estate firm Sage Partners in Fayetteville. “Whatever he said he would do, he would do.”

Back to basics

He no longer goes to an office, but Haynes still begins every work day at 4 a.m.

Collins Haynes the developer/architect is back to being Collins Haynes the architect.

“You’ve got to understand that when you quote, ‘lose everything,’ the only thing you have left is yourself,” he said. “You’re a financial leper when you file bankruptcy. ... What happens is you have to fall back on your own self-preservation mode. For me, that was to entrench myself more so in architecture.”

Haynes said he is currently working on designs for an electronics facility and a medical clinic, both in Fayetteville.

Haynes said a spiritual awakening accompanied his sobriety two decades ago. More recent events have him reflecting on that part of his life.

“I won’t say I’m overly religious, but I do believe I’m not alone in this,” Haynes said. “All I have to do is sit down and think about that, and I’m O.K. When I realized I didn’t have to do this alone, everything got doable.”

Haynes said he attends no particular church, but forgiveness is at the core of his belief system.

“My life is limited,” he said. “I want to go on with the rest of my time here with a clean conscious and enjoy the rest of my time here and do things that matter.”

One of the things that matters to Haynes is the environment. He serves on the board for The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas.

On July 13, Audubon Arkansas announced that the Haynes-Audubon Trust had donated 122 acres of wetlands to the city of Fayetteville.

The site, behind Sam’s Club at Interstate 540 and Arkansas 112, is known as the Springwoods project or Wilson Springs and is a home to the threatened Arkansas darter fish.

Haynes said the donation had nothing to do with his bankruptcy. He bought the land in 2005 with the intention of preserving the wetlands. Giving the land to the city proved more problematic than expected, though.

Initially, the Washington County assessor’s office appraised the property for $2 million and wanted Haynes to pay $390,000 in property taxes and fees. But Jeff Williams, who became assessor in January, said the property couldn’t be developed because it was protected wetlands, so he appraised it as having no value.

“I took the value down to zero since it wasn’t developable,” said Williams. “It’s a wonderful spot for green space right in the middle of a metropolitan area. To me, it was an absolute no brainer that it shouldn’t be valued the way it was.”

“Collins is a true committed environmentalist and conservationist, all in the best sense of both of the words,” said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. “He has always wanted his projects to fit in and to compliment the environment, and also for people to gain inspiration from nature based on the buildings he designs and builds.”

Simon said, despite the recession, Haynes hasn’t given up on his environmental projects, such as Springwoods.

“During the downturn, he has continued his involvement on several conservation projects he has been working on for a long time,” said Simon. “Through the downturn, he didn’t just give up on the things that are core. They are part of who he is. He has continued to work on them.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a former Rogers mayor, said Haynes’ influence can be seen all over the city.

“He’s a very gifted architect whose ideas and creativity are really on display in a lot of areas of our town,” said Womack. “I think he has had a pretty profound impact on the landscape and the skyline of our city. It’s not boilerplate. It’s not run of the mill. It’s pretty unique. I’ve always admired and appreciated his gift.”

Womack, who represents the 3rd District, remembers the economic boom before the recession that began in 2007.

“When we were hitting on all cylinders, It was a juggernaut of creativity, economic power and influence,” said Womack. “The economy kind of ran away from a lot of people. That’s unfortunate because these folks had so much more to give, so much more to offer.”

From the wetlands in Fayetteville to the buildings of Rogers, Haynes knows he has left a legacy for future generations.

“People say, ‘How can you get rid of that remorse?’ There is no remorse,” said Haynes. “The buildings are good buildings. They’re all occupied. They’re making good money. I’m just not in those projects anymore.”

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