Lot-rent plans re­vive de­bate

Dick­son Street is­sue: Lo­cal vs. chain

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BILL BOW­DEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — From Dead Swanky to a house of prayer.

That’s the meta­mor­pho­sis the Rev. Low­ell Gr­isham would like to see for a lot that St. Paul’s Epis­co­pal Church owns at the gate­way to the Dick­son Street entertainment dis­trict.

But that’s not in the plan, at least for now. The church needs to make money by leas­ing a 2,112-square-foot build­ing on that lot at the south­west cor­ner of Dick­son Street and Col­lege Av­enue in Fayet­teville.

What does go into that build­ing has reignited a con­ver­sa­tion about lo­cal ver­sus chain busi­nesses in the gen­tri­fy­ing entertainment dis­trict.

For many years, the build­ing housed a diner called Jerry’s Restau­rant. Most re­cently, it was home to Dead Swanky, a hair salon that leased the spot from 2005 un­til six weeks ago when the salon moved to a build­ing on Trenton Boule­vard.

Three busi­nesses wanted to lease the for­mer Dead Swanky spot. But all of those deals fell through, and the church has listed the prop­erty with a real es­tate agent to find a ten­ant, said Gr­isham, who is the rec­tor at St. Paul’s. It’s a high-pro­file lo­ca­tion. The Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville, cam­pus is within walk­ing dis­tance. About 26,000 cars pass by on Col­lege Av­enue ev­ery day,

ac­cord­ing to the Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment.

One of the deals that fell through was with Star­bucks, which de­cided there wasn’t enough room for a drive-thru lane and an­other lane be­hind the build­ing, said Gr­isham.

“They ran into a prob­lem be­cause there wasn’t enough room on the west side for two lanes,” he said. “That ended up be­ing a deal-breaker for them.”

Misty Oz­turk, the owner of Dead Swanky, said she can’t see a Star­bucks on that cor­ner.

“I told the church ‘That is not a lo­cal down­town vibe,’” said Oz­turk. “We have enough Star­bucks hap­pen­ing in this city.”

There are al­ready three Star­bucks cof­fee shops in Fayet­teville and more than 22,000 world­wide.

Steve Clark, pres­i­dent of the Fayet­teville Cham­ber of Com­merce, said he’s heard the grum­bling from lo­cal busi­ness own­ers about a Star­bucks po­ten­tially go­ing into the for­mer Dead Swanky spot.

“There are some peo­ple I know who were not pleased that a na­tional chain was go­ing to be on that cor­ner,” said Clark. “That’s one of those deals that the mar­ket will dic­tate what the an­swer will be. That’s the chang­ing na­ture of our com­mu­nity.”

Clark said Dick­son Street has been un­der­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion for 25 years, since the Wal­ton Arts Cen­ter opened at Dick­son Street and West Av­enue in 1992.

Gr­isham said he likes the idea of a lo­cal busi­ness go­ing into the space, but the de­ci­sion is up to the church’s board.

“I know we had to bal­ance the de­sire for a lo­cal busi­ness with the high­est and best use, be­ing to un­der­write min­istry through in­come,” he said.

The church first heard from Star­bucks last fall, said Gr­isham. Oz­turk was no­ti­fied that the church was talk­ing to Star­bucks about leas­ing the build­ing, so she found a new lo­ca­tion.

“They said ‘Star­bucks is look­ing, and we’re go­ing to have to greatly in­crease your rent,’” she re­mem­bers.

But it turned out for the best, she said. The new spot is in a quiet lo­ca­tion with plenty of trees, and the clients like it.

Mervin Je­baraj, in­terim direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Busi­ness and Eco­nomic Re­search at UA, said the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion

of Dick­son Street has been at­tract­ing chains, in­clud­ing Chipo­tle, Taco Bell and Waf­fle House. And lease rates tend to in­crease when na­tional chains move in.

“If the idea is this is the gate­way to Dick­son Street, then it should be val­ued as much as some­body is will­ing to pay for it,” he said. “Some would say this is what hap­pens when your entertainment dis­trict is pop­u­lar and suc­cess­ful. Your lease rates go up.”

Lo­cal busi­nesses can still thrive in that kind of en­vi­ron­ment, but they might have to be just off Dick­son Street, where the rent is cheaper, said Je­baraj.

On the other three cor­ners of the Dick­son and Col­lege in­ter­sec­tion are a church, a bank and the Washington County Court­house.

Gr­isham wouldn’t name the two lo­cal busi­nesses that had looked at the lo­ca­tion but backed out on leas­ing it.

“If I had my pref­er­ence, I would like to have a house of prayer on that cor­ner, but that would take a pretty big in­vest­ment,” he said.

Gr­isham said that would re­quire tear­ing down the ex­ist­ing build­ing and con­struct­ing a new one on the site. Gr­isham said Star­bucks ap­par­ently con­sid­ered that but de­cided against it.

Ac­cord­ing to Washington County prop­erty records, the church bought the 0.4-acre lot and build­ing at 241 Col­lege Ave. in 2004 for $350,000. The prop­erty ap­praised last year for $329,200.

An­drew Garner, Fayet­teville’s plan­ning direc­tor, said the lot is zoned “main street cen­ter” and a drive-thru cof­fee shop would be ac­cept­able there as long as it had room for four cars to stack up in the drive-thru.

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