The University of Central Arkansas has been acquiring property in preparation for future growth along Donaghey Avenue since the 1990s.
That undefined future growth was made public in November when UCA President Tom Courtway announced a mixed-use development featuring retail and restaurant components paired with student housing facilities known as the Donaghey Corridor Project.
In a conceptual artistic rendering released by TJ Johnston, director of special university projects/community affairs, who is overseeing the Donaghey Corridor Project, the building encompasses the corner of Donaghey Avenue and Bruce Street, currently the site of a Papa Johns franchise owned by Ozark Pizza Company, LLC of Tulsa, Okla.
In a UCA Board of Trustees meeting in October of 1996, the projected growth area for the University was identified as “all that land lying north of Highway 286, south of College Avenue, west of Donaghey Avenue and east of Farris Road.”
During this meeting, the UCA Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the Voegele Property at 2015 Bruce St. for $59,000.
Two months later, it was written in the Board of Trustees meeting minutes that several property owners in the projected growth area, as well as east of Donaghey Avenue, the proposed site for the Donaghey Corridor Project, had approached the University interested in selling their property.
“Although the university has not identified a permanent use for all of this property, the houses would be suitable on a temporary basis as rental housing for faculty and staff,” the minutes read.
A year later, Todd Denton agreed to sell his property at 1955 Bruce St. to the University. The one-fourth of an acre site sits east of what is now Papa Johns. At the time it was purchased, the property included a three-bedroom house. The purchase price could not be found by press time Tuesday.
The three-bedroom house was demolished to make room for the Elizabeth Street parking lot, constructed in the summer of 1997, adding 200 new parking spaces.
In 1999, UCA secured its third home east of Donaghey Avenue from Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Olsen at 206 Donaghey for $175,000.
In 2005, the University bought the Jewell Woodard property at 218 Donaghey Ave. Although there is not an “offer and acceptance letter” on file, UCA General Counsel Warren Readnour said the University has a title insurance policy on file for $151,600 — most likely the price paid for the property, he said.
UCA acquired the last home needed for the Donaghey Corridor Project, located at 230 Donaghey Ave., July 31, 2013. C. Jay Witt sold the 12,375-SF property including a more than 60-year-old house for $165,000 — $57,000 more than its appraised value.
President Tom Courtway recommended the property be purchased at this price because it could potentially command a higher value if sold for commercial development, as said in the UCA Board of Trustees meeting minutes.
As of September 2013, UCA owned all property in the block of Donaghey and Bruce except for the Papa Johns at 242 Donaghey Ave. and an unimproved tract of land.
The vacant lot was secured through eminent domain pursuant to the provisions of Ark. Code Ann. § 6-62-201, the authority to condemn property whenever and wherever the acquisition of property is necessary for the use of the institution, in September of 2013.
Ms. Terry Williams owned the unimproved 50 foot by 175 foot tract of land. After reviewing a 2012 appraisal of $79,000 and taking into account a property that sold for $165,000 adjacent to Williams’ property, UCA made an offer to purchase the land for $116,000.
Williams rejected the offer and met with a counter amount of $215,000.
The Board of Trustees adopted the resolution to acquire the property through eminent domain in a teleconference meeting Sept. 13, 2013. The final purchase price established by eminent domain could not be found by press time Tuesday.
Two of the homes along Donaghey have been demolished in preparation for the project. The latest being C. Jay Witt’s former property at 230 Donaghey Ave. about seven to eight months ago, Johnston said.
The two homes still standing are controlled and owned by UCA and are currently occupied by University staff. Dr. Rheo Morris, assistant director for residence life, lives in the Woodard property.
Morris’ husband Craig R. Stapleton said the University has been transparent about the Donaghey Corridor Project and the couple is planning to move in preparation for project construction.
Johnston said the Woodard property at 218 Donaghey and the Olsen property at 206 Donaghey would not be demolished in preparation for the Donaghey Corridor Project.
Although the artistic rendering does not show the student housing facilities located between the Elizabeth Street parking lot and Donaghey Avenue, Johnston said there are no plans to demolish those facilities at this time, and they will be incorporated into the Corridor design.
Jim Brown, chairman of Ozark Pizza Company, said he knows his property is included in the plan for the Donaghey Corridor Project, and has been in negotiations with UCA about becoming a tenant on the first floor of the restaurant/retail component of the mixed-use development, but everything is contingent on the sale of the property, he said.
“We like the site, location and school, so if they buy our property we definitely are interested,” he said.
Courtway said UCA purchases property with money from the Property Acquisition Fund, made up of money set aside at the end of each fiscal year for the purpose of acquiring property outlined in UCA’s projected growth area.
“There is a little over a million in that fund for property acquisition right now,” he said.