The Central Landing project is not meant solely to be a redevelopment of Cantrell Field, but part of a master plan for the city.
Jim Wilson & Associates is working with the city to connect Oak St. and I-40 including intersection improvements and a new overpass over Bruce St. and Elsinger Blvd. Road improvements will include an additional east and west connection to Conway and into downtown.
“This is one of the biggest hurdles we see that we’ll work on, but it can be done and we’ve been assured by the city and the (Conway Development Corporation) that we’ll work together to make this happen,” said Will Wilson, CEO and president of JWA.
With the connectivity of I-40, Central Landing will connect to Conway Commons, the colleges and Downtown Conway.
Wilson said the road infrastructure paired with the mixed-use development will create a better sense of connection for the central Arkansas area.
“That’s why we came up with the name Central Landing. Once you get here, you’re hear,” he said.
City officials have also considered the Cantrell Field redevelopment as a possible opportunity to expand the Oak Grove Cemetery.
The purchase and sale agreement states the City of Conway may remove a 100 foot by 800 foot strip of land from Cantrell Field immediately north of Oak Grove Cemetery to allow for its future growth. In exchange, the city would provide an equivalent piece of land with dimensions and location acceptable to the CDC and JWA. This land swap would require Conway City Council approval.
JWA is conducting a survey to show corporations Conway can support a mixed-use development of retail and dining components, offices, multifamily units and hotels.
“We’ll start having tours here in Conway. Bringing in retailers, showing them the site, showing them the community,” Wilson said.
Carl Bartlett, senior vice president for JWA, said the company was forced to sell one of its developments at the height of the recession because they were unable to lease the development.
“You don’t want to get out there and build it, and it be empty because it’s too hard to lease them that way,” Wilson said. “If you lease them on the front end, they seem to open and be more vibrant.”
Wilson said the company will try to make sure 50 percent of the development has committed tenants before construction begins.
“We’re feeling very confident, and that’s why we’re here this morning to announce all these great things,” he said.
The company is not only focusing on securing stores and restaurants, Wilson said, but apartments and condominiums as well.
“We’re doing it all right now. We’ll go out to a lot of the hotel users, and multifamily. We’d like to have that component hooked in to the retail and to the work, so you can think live, work, shop,” he said.
Joe Lamb contributed to this story
Wilson said benefits of the development include renewed viability for surrounding neighborhoods, redevelopment of an aging industrial area, pedestrian and bicycle accessibility and an opportunity to create density.
Central Landing will also strengthen Conway’s viability for business and youth sports travel, he said, as well as provide economic benefits and job creation.
Based on the CDC’s experience and the unique quality of the development, Wilson said, he believes two large office users can be recruited to utilize the development creating up to 1,000 jobs and generate $50 million in payroll.
“Central Landing can become an integral part and fiber of Conway, Ark.,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of high hurtles to jump over, but we believe we have the best team we can have to make this happen.”