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VOL. 121 | NO. 146 | Monday, July 24, 2006

Arlington's Growing Medical Community Might Get New Hospital

By Andy Meek

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New projects in Arlington

158.9-acre development with a mixture of zoning, possibly for a hospital

Wright Medical Group expansion - recently bought 29 acres from the town

Community-built "Playground of Dreams"

The small towns that surround Memphis are no longer the new frontiers they once were. Unbridled growth occurring in places like Arlington - the northeast Shelby County municipality of more than 7,500 residents - resembles one of those department store contests in which shoppers cram as many goods into their carts as they can.

Except, in Arlington, that race is for available real estate.

Hospital on the way?

In the past few days, developer John Hyneman has assembled four vacant parcels into a 158.9-acre site that fronts Airline Road. The land is zoned for a mixture of uses, including commercial and industrial.

Town officials, people involved in the deal and the project consultant all said no use for the property has been determined yet. But one clause in a restrictive covenants agreement associated with the project suggests the land could be slated for a hospital.

The clause stipulates that the south parcel of the property may not be used for restaurants or similar facilities "except for those attached to or located within the hospital being contemplated to be constructed." Hyneman - the father of well-known Memphis developers Rusty and Kevin Hyneman - was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Wright on time

About a mile away from that site, also along Airline Road, the planned expansion of medical manufacturer Wright Medical Group is continuing to take shape.

The company, Arlington's largest employer with 650 employees, bought 29 acres adjacent to its current facility from the town a few weeks ago. There, Wright is building a new corporate headquarters along with a manufacturing plant.

North Mississippi-based JBHM Architects has put together a master plan for the orthopedics company that calls for a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing addition, plus about 20,000 square feet of office, cafeteria and welcome center space.

"A new central plant would be sized to pick up the existing facility, plus the new facilities and some of the future office facilities out there, as well," said JBHM principal Mike Walker.

Other new projects in Arlington include a medical office and clinic that opened on U.S. 70 July 5. And starting August 23, a community playground - for which the town will contribute $50,000 to build - will be erected at Hughes College Hill Park. Arlington's chamber of commerce also will celebrate its 10th anniversary Aug. 9, proof that new growth and a real estate boom have had a big effect on the small town.

Birds of a feather

In sheer size, the Wright Medical project is one of the most significant at the moment. Company officials are tight-lipped for now, but they hint that more detailed announcements will be coming soon.

"We are continuing to make Arlington our home," said Kyle Joines, Wright's vice president of manufacturing. "We're currently going through our business planning cycle of exactly what we still need, timing, scope, things of that nature. We're still working on it, so it's just a little premature for me to share any more information."

Walker said JBHM recently did a sketch for Wright officials to, as he put it, "whet their appetite."

"We've been working with Wright for a couple of years now - first in Arlington at their existing site, then when they were looking at the Concord EFS building, and now back to the Arlington site," Walker said.

About a year ago, fast-growing Wright Medical was poised to move to a larger 285,000-square-foot building in a business campus on Goodlett Farms Parkway. That deal fell through, so the company decided to expand in Arlington.

And Wright's main order of business at the moment apparently is consolidating its existing facilities in the town.

"Their main headquarters are across the street from the manufacturing, and their distribution is a mile down the road," Walker said. "So the intent is to have everything on one campus, where they can very easily go from one spot to the next."

Boom times in Arlington

Meanwhile, Hyneman took his project before the Arlington Planning Commission July 7 and so far has been approved for a land disturbance permit. Town Superintendent Ed Haley said that means Hyneman will use the approval to begin leveling the site to get it ready for development.

He bought the land at the northeast corner of Interstate 40 and Airline Road from Belz Enterprises.

"And he could do a lot of things with that," Haley said.

Thanks to projects like these, along with some current statistics, it's a safe bet Arlington will look vastly different a few years from now.

One example: The Shelby County Assessor's Office pegs the total assessed value of all the real estate in Arlington at almost $180 million - but the percentage increase in that figure between last year and this one was the highest of any municipality in Shelby County.

Work and play

And there's another new building project on the way that's a little off the beaten path as far as real estate developments go. It's something being billed as a "Playground of Dreams" - a community-built playground that will require the sweat of at least 200 volunteers and support from community organizations and businesses.

Community-built playgrounds have been embraced by communities across the country and can include a variety of features. For theirs, Arlington officials contacted Ithaca, New York-based Leathers & Associates, which specializes in custom-designed, community-built playgrounds.

Dave Iannello, a designer and project manager with the firm, said the finished product in Arlington would include a train station and train, a giant tree house, rock garden, slides and a rock-climbing wall, among other touches.

"Nothing's pre-cut, nothing's manufactured - it's all constructed in the field on site with volunteers," he said.

And the race for available real estate in Arlington continues.

PROPERTY SALES 73 147 18,012
MORTGAGES 89 184 20,749
BUILDING PERMITS 117 258 37,094
BANKRUPTCIES 55 114 11,540