TJ Johnston, executive vice president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and Conway Development Corporation, has accepted a new position with the University of Central Arkansas.
Johnston, a 2003 graduate of UCA, has accepted the recently created position of director of special university projects/community affairs with a proposed annual salary of $105,000, according to a UCA personnel action form.
The new position came with the announcement of the Donaghey Corridor project in November.
In an email sent to University staff last Tuesday, UCA President Tom Courtway said “Johnston will be responsible for overseeing all phases of the planning and development of the Donaghey corridor project as well as working with officials of the City of Conway on the project.”
Courtway said Johnston would also be working on the development of UCA’s Greek Village, an approximately $13.8 million on-campus housing complex.
Johnston said the decision to change positions wasn’t easy by any means.
“I come to the Chamber everyday with a smile on my face,” he said. “I love where I work.”
In his role at UCA, Johnston will become the economic development liaison for UCA to employers and businesses in Conway and Central Arkansas to determine their needs as well as develop relationships with those entities beneficial to UCA, Courtway said.
“He will also serve as the University’s liaison with the City of Conway and neighborhoods adjacent to campus,” he said.
Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Chamber and CDC, said Johnston received real world urban redevelopment experience during his time with the Conway Downtown Partnership, Chamber and CDC.
With the CDP, Johnston oversaw the redevelopment of EM Jeans, the Halter building and Steel Chevrolet building that houses Old Chicago Pizza and JJ’s Grill.
Later, Johnston acted as developer for the Hewlett-Packard facility at the Meadows Office and Technology Park managing the CDC’s role of construction on the project, and most recently he has assisted in the planning for Central Landing, a $90 million mixed-use redevelopment of Conway’s former airport site Cantrell Field.
“He’s had some important experience as it relates to big projects and coordinating with different organizations,” Lacy said. “That is not necessarily easy and not something everyone can do well.”
Lacy said before Johnston accepted the position at UCA, he was about to start working with the developers for Central Landing.
“[Johnston] was going to start working exclusively on [Central Landing],” Lacy said. “We’ll be splitting his responsibilities until we can figure out what to do.”
Johnston said while he was looking forward to working with Jim Wilson & Associates on Central Landing, he’s also excited about the opportunities coming to UCA with the redevelopment of Donaghey Avenue.
“There’s a lot of momentum behind revamping [Donaghey] that piqued my curiosity,” he said.
Johnston said the first phase of the Donaghey Corridor project would span the corner of Bruce Street and Donaghey Avenue with a multi-level, mixed-use building with retail and restaurant tenants on the first floor and student housing on the upper floors.
“From that point on we’ll be moving South,” he said.
Johnston expects the project to get underway in 2016. Johnston’s first day in his new position at UCA is Feb. 24.
Lacy said there are no immediate plans to fill Johnston’s position when he leaves the Chamber Feb. 21.
“My philosophy has always been to not make a decision quickly when somebody leaves,” Lacy said. “There’s so much change from year to year I always look to see if there are other skill sets that we need that we don’t already have.”
For now, Johnston’s roles and responsibilities, including the Central Landing project, will be divided among several Chamber employees.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215.)
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