New own­ers re­view plans for prop­erty

Land on Dick­son Street once be­longed to Bar­ber

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RYBURN

FAYET­TEVILLE — A piece of prop­erty on Dick­son Street that has served as a mag­net of con­tro­versy even­tu­ally will have some­thing on it other than park­ing spa­ces.

Five parcels com­pris­ing just more than an acre at 151 W. Dick­son St., across the street from Col­lier’s Drug Store, sold for $4.4 mil­lion last month. An in­vestor from Colorado, James Chase, made the pur­chase un­der the name of a hold­ing com­pany out of Texas.

The prop­erty gained no­to­ri­ety when for­mer devel­oper Bran­don Bar­ber tried to put in a nine-story ho­tel called the Divin­ity on Dick­son. Bar­ber’s com­pany bought the land for $4.6 mil­lion in 2006 and even­tu­ally aban­doned the project, cit­ing fi­nan­cial woes.

A deal was un­der con­tract

in 2013 for a mixed-use project but a res­i­dent-led ef­fort put it to a halt. Col­lier Diver­si­fi­ca­tion bought the land for $2.7 mil­lion a year later.

In midst of the 2013 par­cel fight, the City Coun­cil passed the Home Pro­tec­tion Or­di­nance. The idea was to limit build­ing size on lots next to sin­gle-fam­ily homes by re­quir­ing stag­gered 36-foot walls as op­posed to tall, flat struc­tures.

The prop­erty’s main street zon­ing al­lows build­ings as tall as 84 feet, or about seven sto­ries, if the struc­ture is more than 15 feet from the street. Build­ings within 15 feet have a 56-foot height max­i­mum, about four or five sto­ries.

Two of the lots sit next to a home. The other three abut Dick­son Street.

In other words, tall build­ings could go up near Dick­son Street and smaller ones are pos­si­ble next to the home.

The site has about 50 park­ing spa­ces that nearby restau­rants use for valet park­ing. La­mar Pet­tus’ old law build­ing sits along Block Av­enue and trees cover the rest.

Tim Stein, bro­ker with Bas­sett Mix and As­so­ci­ates, said con­struc­tion is likely about three years away. In the mean­time, it will con­tinue to be used as a park­ing lot and maybe a food truck or two could park there. The old Pet­tus build­ing might get a re­model, he said.

With “mixed use,” the de­vel­op­ers are open to al­most any­thing, Stein said. Clin­ics, an ur­gent care fa­cil­ity that could match with Col­lier Drug Store, rentals, con­do­mini­ums, re­tail and of­fice space are all be­ing con­sid­ered, he said.

“They want it to be aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing,” Stein said. “It’s not go­ing to be some gar­gan­tuan build­ing that doesn’t match the sur­round­ings.”

Mel Col­lier en­vi­sioned a park­ing lot that could hold 200 cars when he bought the land for $2.7 mil­lion in 2014. City staff mem­bers didn’t sign off on the idea and changes would have wiped out sev­eral of the spa­ces, he said. The city’s code only al­lows off- site park­ing lots with a con­di­tional use per­mit, which the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion must ap­prove.

Col­lier de­cided to sell the prop­erty af­ter the park­ing lot wasn’t go­ing to work out. He still says Dick­son Street needs more park­ing.

“We thought this was kind of a no-brainer, home-run­with-the-city kind of thing. We met with about 20 folks from the city and they said, ‘No, that’s not what we want. We don’t want park­ing lots to be seen from the street. We want a liner build­ing,’” Col­lier said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to build a build­ing. I don’t want to be a land­lord.’”

Alder­woman Sarah Marsh spon­sored the Home Pro­tec­tion Or­di­nance but voted against it af­ter sev­eral amend­ments made it too re­stric­tive, she said.

She hopes the de­vel­op­ers will bring some­thing that serves the work­ing class or young pro­fes­sion­als. Re­plac­ing a park­ing lot on a prom­i­nent cor­ner with places for peo­ple to live, work and shop would serve as a great step for­ward for down­town, Marsh said.

“We don’t need more lux­ury con­dos only oc­cu­pied on game week­ends,” she said. “We need de­sir­able and at­tain­able hous­ing and ameni­ties to help us at­tract and re­tain the skilled work­force nec­es­sary to power our grow­ing econ­omy and in­crease the cus­tomer base for down­town busi­nesses.”

Devel­oper Mark Zweig, who owns two plots im­me­di­ately south of the lots, said mixed-use devel­op­ment ties into the city’s long-term goals. More peo­ple down­town means more eco­nomic vi­tal­ity, in­creased prop­erty values and a firmer tax base to sus­tain some­thing like pub­lic tran­sit, he said.

“On the other side we’ve got Col­lier’s and U.S. Pizza and French Metro An­tiques and all that. But, on that side of the road we’ve got just kind of a void,” Zweig said. “I think it’ll re­ally help sell that and sort of de­fine the top of Dick­son.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

One of the five parcels of land at 151 W. Dick­son St. sold for $4.4 mil­lion in late June to an in­vestor in Colorado who grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Arkansas. This is the site of the for­mer Divin­ity Ho­tel project by Bran­don Bar­ber.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

The site of the for­mer Divin­ity Ho­tel project has been an empty park­ing lot with some trees and La­mar Pet­tus’ old law build­ing for years.

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