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Tuesday, September 02, 2014, 4:26 p.m.
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Big-time renovation

Conway developer buys former furniture facility

By Tammy Keith

This article was published January 9, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

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Developer George Covington Sr. of Conway stands in the former Tiffany Industries building at 2110 Salem Road. Covington bought the vacant facility at an auction in November and is renovating it. “We’ll either remodel it into offices, or if they want a warehouse, we’ll make it a really nice warehouse,” he said. “It’s whoever comes along first.”

George Covington Sr. of Conway has taken on another building-renovation project in the city, and it’s a big one.

Covington Development purchased the former Tiffany Industries facility on Salem Road in west Conway.

“I don’t have any plans. It’s just one of those things …,” Covington said. “If it’s sitting there, I’ll buy it.”

The 129,000-square-foot metal building is on about 17 acres, he said.

Covington said Brad Lacy, president of the Conway Development Corp., would like to see the building turned into office space.

“When I bought it, Brad came over and said, ‘Hey, did you realize we were looking at this for an office?’” Covington said.

The CDC had architectural drawings of the building made that include “big glass doors on the front” and a modern look, Covington said.

It’s less than a mile south of Interstate 40, which also makes the property attractive to businesses, Lacy said.

“With the opening of that [interstate] exit, that building is really a different building now than it was before, plus I think the office use may blend with the bigger residential neighborhoods out there,” Lacy said.

“When I buy something, I just hope somebody’s going to come along that I can work with, and we can do something for the city of Conway,” Covington said.

“We’re going to get it all structurally sound,” Covington said. “If someone wants a huge manufacturing space, we’ll rent it to them. If they want an office, we’d have 100,000 square feet of office space. We haven’t made up our minds.”

The advantage of several tenants, Covington said, is “when one of them leaves, it’s not devastating.”

“We’re going to change the appearance of it any way we go,” he said.

He said the building will be cleaned and improved inside, and if someone wants it for office space, it will be easy to finish.

“We would have the building all ready with the exception of the storefront, the parking lot and whatever they wanted done inside,” Covington said.

“You cross your fingers and hope what everyone wants will come,” he said.

“Sometime you roll the dice and go with your gut on what you think’s going to come along.”

Lacy said the CDC had Crafton Tull, an engineering, architecture and surveying company, do designs of the building about a year ago, “so we were trying to be proactive to show that it could function in a different way,” he said.

“We really don’t have any large office space available in the city,” Lacy said. “We routinely get requests for 50,000 to 100,000 square feet of office space. It could really make a great office complex.

“We don’t have a ton of manufacturing space on the market, so any we can add is going to help us when we recruit. The likelihood of heavy industrial use isn’t great.”

Tiffany Industries, an office-furniture manufacturer, closed in 2003, according to newspaper archives. The parent company, Mayline, bought the property, Covington said.

Instead of making furniture, Covington said, the company bought “container loads of furniture from China” and stored them at the facility.

“They never spent a dime on it, so it needs a lot of tender loving care — a lot of tender loving care,” Covington said.

He said the building is sound, however.

“Inside, structurally, you’ve got a pretty good building,” Covington said.

Covington walked through the cavernous, cold warehouse last week, pointing out its problems and its potential.

“Everything I buy is something nobody else wants,” Covington said. “That’s what we do. That’s what makes it fun.”

The 1970s blue metal building has become somewhat of an eyesore. Its driveway is a popular location for police to park to watch for speeders on Salem Road.

Some vandalism has taken place in the empty building — graffiti was spray painted in yellow on the concrete floor and on the back of the building.

“Windows were broken; we had to secure the building,” Covington said. “We’re putting a fence in the back.

“The parking’s unlimited as far as what you’d need to go with this building.”

Five acres are wooded, he said.

Cords dangling from the ceilings throughout the building are phone lines, Covington said. His employees started tearing down an office that was created “up on stilts” in the building.

“We just thought that was weird,” Covington said. “Then they did things like they’ve taken parts of the wall out over there,” he said, pointing across the space.

He said it will take two or three months to clean up the inside of the structure.

“It takes a lot longer than you think,” Covington said. “This is over 3 acres of building in itself.

“I just think everyone would like to see a nicer landscape out here.”

Lacy said he has confidence in Covington, no matter what he does with the building.

“He’ll do something great with it,” Lacy said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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