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VOL. 125 | NO. 193 | Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Construction On Rise in West Memphis

By Sarah Baker

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One of only two retail developments on tap this year in West Memphis is on the verge of breaking ground.

Marketplace Development LLC closed last week on 3.11 acres in the shadow of Wal-Mart Super Center in West Memphis, where the group plans to build a 29,340-square-foot retail center.

The Marketplace at West Memphis will be located at 780 West Service Road, just north of Wal-Mart.

Tenants will include AT&T Wireless, GameStop, Shoe Show, Dot’s Fashions, Dragon China, Regal Nails and Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurants. Only three bays remain in the development with a maximum configuration of 2,800 square feet.

Memphis-based Marketplace Development is using in-house construction along with several local sub-contractors, and it plans to open the center next spring.

Ward Wimbish, director of West Memphis’ Office of Economic Development, called the Wal-Mart on West Service Road the “retail center” for Eastern Arkansas, pulling from five or six counties and making it the perfect place for retail expansion.

“The West Memphis Wal-Mart Supercenter is probably one of very few in the country that has vacant land around it,” Wimbish said. “So it’s taken a little while for us to get our message out and for the retail industry to find us, but once they do, it’s an easy sell.”

And the incentives don’t stop there, Wimbish added. West Memphis property taxes are half of anything across the Mississippi River and its utility rates are 25 percent lower, he said.

“As we become more effective at getting that message out, when the building and construction of the new warehouses recovers, we’re going to see more activity in West Memphis,” Wimbish said.

Architectural design for the project is being done by J. Wise Smith & Associates, with engineering by Carlson Engineering.

Shawn Massey, partner with the Memphis office of The Shopping Center Group LLC, along with his affiliate broker Robert Sloan represented Marketplace Development on behalf of the landlord on all leases.

The team had worked on the project for more than two years. First Tennessee Bank provided about $6 million of financing.

The Shopping Center Group also represented AT&T, GameStop and Dot’s Fashions in the development. All other tenants represented themselves.

With the help of Wimbish, Massey worked closely with the developers to lure tenants to the center. Except for AT&T, which has a very small presence in its current location, all of the proposed tenants are new to the area or opening additional locations.

The Marketplace at West Memphis was actually was tenant-driven deal. Both AT&T and Shoe Show were looking in West Memphis and they could not find a property. The companies knew they wanted to be located near the Wal-Mart, so they asked The Shopping Center Group to go out and find a developer.

Ryan Lassiter and Tommy Lassiter of The Doyle Rogers Co. from Little Rock, Ark., represented the seller, the Scottish Rite Temple.

“Everybody is West Memphis is really excited about it because they’ve been wanting this to come for a long time,” said J. Wise Smith, the project’s architect. “This is one of the better centers we’ve ever done.”

On average, Marketplace Development’s centers create about 75 new jobs, with about five employees per store. For a distressed county, with 14 percent unemployment, the local economy is sure to benefit.

Word of the center’s development came around the same time that Awesome Products Inc. announced it is expanding in a pair of Eastern Arkansas cities, giving the region a double dose of good news.

The Buena Park, Calif.-based company said last week it plans to open a new location in Marked Tree, Ark., as well as increase operations at the company’s current West Memphis facilities, investing a total of more than $44 million.

All told, these developments will bring approximately 300 new jobs to West Memphis.

Awesome Products, a manufacturer of laundry detergent, fabric softener and household bleach and chemicals, has gone from 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space in 2002 to breaking 1 million square feet by the end of this year, making it the largest manufacturer in this side of Arkansas.

L.D. Hardas, owner and president of Awesome Products, is looking to expand further in the upcoming years because the company is bullish on the area.

“We are fortunate to have the resources in place here in Arkansas in which to continue to grow our business,” Hardas said in a statement.

“This region is perfect – an available skilled workforce, proximity to key distribution point, quality infrastructure and collaboration among private and public entities.”

PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466