Wednesday, March 20, 2019

$40 Million development coming to Alexander

(CORRECTION-See paragraphs 11 and 12.)

City of Alexander Mayor Paul Mitchell has announced a developer is ready to convert the former state-operated Alexander Human Development Center property, along Highway 111, into a commercial and residential complex. The 40 million dollar project will include renovating the property’s iconic former tuberculosis hospital into apartments and extending Brookwood Road through the property to Highway 111.

The announcement came near the end of the council’s March 18 meeting. Mitchell said the developer is, “Anxious to get going.”

Mitchell said the developer wants to build the road, while the weather is good, and renovate the hospital building first. At the same time they will be contacting potential commercial clients. Some of the names dropped by Mitchell were McDonald’s, Big Red and possibly a Harps.

The developer is Ben Hanford (DBA 14701 Alexander Road, LLC.), a client of the civil engineering firm of Hope Consulting in Benton. Bill Hope, Jr. met with Mitchell and Planning Commission Chairman Michael Huck in 2018 to discuss potential development areas in the city. The main topic of discussion was the Human Development property.

Hanford will put $500,000.00 “in escrow” to guarantee completion of the Brookwood extension Mitchell said. A portion of the extension will go through property owned by the developer of the Meadow’s Edge subdivision. According to Mitchell there is a verbal agreement to allow extending Brookwood Road through the Meadow’s Edge property. However, the city must acquire easement rights before construction can begin through Meadow’s Edge.

Strip malls will also be part of the mix. Mitchell pointed out that strip malls allow small businesses to set up without the hassle and cost of buying property and constructing a building.

According to a drawing presented by Mitchell, the property will be divided into 13 lots (See graphic above). Lot-1 (green) has the hospital building, which will be renovated into apartments. Next to Lot-1 is Lot-10 (tan), which will be developed into multi-family housing. The remainder of the property will be commercial.

During a conversation after the meeting Mitchell revealed the name of the shopping center, Alexander Cross Roads. Besides the shopping center being accessible by area residents from all four points on the compass, from both inside and outside Alexander, Mitchell sees the name as a metaphor for Alexander’s future.

“We are at a cross roads,” he said. “Do we stay where we are or move ahead.”

This is exactly what Mitchell expected the property would do. He wanted to use it to attract commercial development that will result in more sales tax revenue to the city. And, since the city was able to acquire the property from the state for a whopping $10 Alexander doesn’t lose anything if the property is given away to the right developer.

During its February 2018 meeting the council approved an ordinance accepting the state’s offer to take ownership of the Human Development Center. The 65.69-acre property was abandoned after clients were moved to a more homelike environment.

The closing occurred in 2010 during a federal lawsuit over Arkansas's entire Human Development system. Eventually, all of the Human Development centers were closed.

The center was home to several adults with special needs that required care and training from professionals. The statewide lawsuit concerning the treatment and facilities provided to the clients resulted in the state shuttering all human development centers and moving residents throughout the state into apartment-like settings. Pathfinder, Inc. now provides the life-skills training and housing to anyone needing those services.

As part of the agreement with the state the city agreed to “honor” an existing lease with Pathfinder. While Pathfinder occupies approximately one acre of the property and five housing units, according to the lease Pathfinder pays one dollar ($1.00) per year and must maintain the grounds of the entire property. The lease expires in 2022.

As it turns out, there’s a reason why the state couldn’t interest a developer in the property. According to Mitchell the state isn’t allowed, by law, to sell state property to individuals. Apparently, the state couldn’t find another use for the property so they came knocking on Alexander’s door.

“That restriction doesn’t apply to us,” Mitchell said during a post-meeting conversation.

Since the state first made the offer in early 2017 it has been Mitchell’s intent to use the property as a lure to attract individual businesses or developers. Mitchell told council members he wants to deed the entire property to the developer including the Pathfinder lease.

He is currently looking for a real estate attorney to review the proposal and make sure all the documents will stand legal muster and there are no pitfalls that will come back later to bite the city. Ultimately, it will be up to council members to give final approval on the transaction.

There is one downside to all this. For the past two years the old hospital has been used by Alexander and other fire departments throughout the state as a location to practice fire rescue skills.

Earlier in the meeting Fire Chief Ryan McCormick, from the Collegeville Fire Department, thanked the mayor and council members for use of the old hospital building. He noted that since last week’s drills, “One firefighter has been saved.”

In other business during the March 18 meeting:

The city council had the first reading of an annexation ordinance involving property, approximately 1.73-acres, next to Ample Storage along Highway 5. Mitchell noted the ordinance lacked an Emergency Clause. Once that’s added he expects to pass it at the next meeting.

Council members approved the final version of the 2018 budget.

Council members declared Ward-4 Seat-1 vacant. At the February council meeting Council Member Melissa Ratliff submitted a letter of resignation. Since last summer Ratliff has been working part-time at city hall mainly to organize the thousands of files. With her resignation she will be working with JoAn Churchill learning the bookkeeping system.

Mitchell said someone has already shown an interest in filling the position. Anyone who is a registered voter and lives in Ward-4 should send their resume to:

Mayor Paul Mitchell
P O. Box 610
Alexander, AR 72002-0610.

The next meeting of the Alexander city council is April 15. The meeting is at 6 PM and is held in the courtroom at city hall. The public is invited to attend.


  1. Please consider how an apartment building of this size would affect the already crowded Bryant School district

  2. Not everyone has children. Besides, to attract businesses that require walk-in customers you need warm bodies. If municipalities worried about the schools none of them would allow any residential construction. And, if you're concerned now wait until you see what's going in across from Meadow's Edge. It's still in the design stage but you probably won't like it.

  3. It will be a big step for this small city! GO MR MAYOR

  4. Population, growth brings new schools; not vise-versa