Spirit of MalvernREAD ONLINE
Retail project could bring jobs to BentonPublished November 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
BENTON Plans for a major retail center along Interstate 30 in Benton are under development. If the concept becomes reality, Benton could attract shoppers from throughout the region, and the city would benefit from millions of dollars in sales taxes.
A sign along the I-30 access road west of Exit 114, at U.S. 67, announces that Benton Town Center, an 800,000-square-foot shopping center, will be coming soon at a site that is mostly woods today.
Mayor David Mattingly said the project would be a major step in building the city’s tax base and make the community a retail destination.
“When developed, it will be the largest shopping center between Little Rock and Texarkana, and it could bring in shoppers from Arkadelphia, Malvern and Hot Springs,” Mattingly said Tuesday. “A 100-acre retail development could bring in $100 million a year in retail sales, and that’s $1.5 million in new sales-tax revenues to support our city, and $250,000 each for streets and parks, with no tax increase.”
The mayor said “a lot of things have to happen” before the shopping center becomes a reality, but that the developer, The Retail Connection, headquartered in Dallas, had signed a 12-month option on the land in August. The land was annexed into the city about five years ago, Mattingly said.
According to the mayor, a 300-acre site that includes the 108 acres designated for Benton Town Center, was “aggressively privately marketed” to The Retail Connection, which was looking for a project in Arkansas.
Lamont Cornwell, director of Benton Community Development, said the two men handling the project for The Retail Connection, Daniel Fuller, senior vice president of connected development services, and John Doubleday, senior vice president/brokerage, both have ties to central Arkansas.
The company purchased Shackleford Crossing in west Little Rock last year and helped add stores to the complex, Cornwell said. He showed a prospectus of the Benton project, saying the concept includes creating a “Main Street” of retail and restaurants, along with entertainment, such as a movie theater, in later development.
“It would be like the Promenade on Chenal, also in west Little Rock,” Cornwell said. “It would have the feel and shopping environment of a downtown, with sidewalks and fountains.”
According to the information given to the city of Benton, the first phase of the project would be the largest, including more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, plus parking.
Letters of intent have been signed with specialty stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Michael’s, an art-and-craft supplies retailer, Mayor Mattingly said. Other companies being sought for the project include J.C. Penney and Gordmans. Restaurants such as Texas Roadhouse are also being approached by the developer. All of those companies are included in the Shackleford Crossing retail center at Interstate 430 and Shackleford Road in Little Rock.
“It was the right land and the right chemistry that worked for this purchase,” Mattingly said. “The price for the property has been decided. I don’t know what it was.”
The site would be fully developed over a period of years, Mattingly said.
In addition, unrelated plans are under way for development of another part of the 300-acre plot to be developed for new homes.
“It could have 800 to 1,000 homes over an 8- to 10-year build-out,” the mayor said.
Mattingly has called economic development “a focus” of his administration. He tied the shopping-center proposal to the future hotel/event center complex, scheduled to open next year, and the plans for expansion of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Benton Center as signs of the city’s progress and brighter future.
“The event center will give us a chance to network and make more connections, and give new opportunities for the town and its businesses,” he said. “We can’t do it if we don’t have an event that draws people, and for that, we need a place we are proud to show off.”
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or email@example.com.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.