The developer plans to renovate the barracks into an entertainment space
The 21 bronze barracks were animated by the activity of the soldiers of the army who were training in Fort Chaffee. But now they feel lonely and abandoned as they have been since 1987. A man from Fort Smith wants to bring the buildings back to life.
In early October, Lloyd Sumpter of Rival CRE is expected to own 25 buildings that were part of Fort Chaffee when it was an active military base – buildings that date back to World War II.
“We’re pretty much in the process of bringing him back to life,” Sumpter said.
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Sumpter plans to renovate 13 of the barracks first over the next 18 months, turning them into the Chaffee Barracks. He will start the project in October and wants to wait to see the progress of the project before continuing with the renovation of additional buildings.
Ultimately, the space could include up to 90 apartments and 28 spaces for restaurants or retail businesses.
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Sumpter, who paid $ 663,000 for 21 of the buildings, will invest $ 20 million in the project, said Daniel Mann, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.
Mann said there was no tax incentive provided as part of this project.
The first four apartments will function as Airbnbs. After that, Sumpter is still figuring out how much renting each apartment will cost.
“It will be a community for all of the people who live around this area,” Sumpter said. “We will have eight to 10 restaurants, retail stores, stores. It will be the place where people want to come after work for drinks or to meet their friends for dinner.”
The renovation will create mixed-use buildings that will include retail space on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor.
The barracks measure 5,310 square feet each and most include an open floor plan, Mann said.
“I am focused on creating any retail or service business like nail salons. We’ve had a few shops interested, “Sumpter said.” Restaurants, cafes, these types of businesses have approached us wanting to be in the barracks, so we’re trying to keep all the retail business and no, you know, people don’t get so excited to see insurance bureaus everywhere so make it more of a retail area. ”
Sumpter will group the buildings in pairs and install an outdoor event space in between.
At the same time, Sumpter wants to replace the four-foot sidewalk with a 12-foot walking and cycling path. He is working with the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority to integrate the trail into the system that spans the Chaffee Crossing area, connecting it to the medical school.
At the ends of the buildings, there will be 15 to 16 murals that will tell the story of Fort Chaffee. The walkway will be lined with 24 Colorado blue cedars.
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Sumpter also wants to incorporate exterior pavilions into the design.
“Especially during COVID, everyone wants to go out and I think everyone will want to stay out,” Sumpter said.
Sumpter is working with Rdc Architects to make his dream come true. This will be the company’s first project in Fort Smith. The company has offices all over the world, but its closest location is in Rogers.
In addition to transforming the barracks, Sumpter wants to build several larger buildings to attract regional restaurants.
“The Barracks project in the Historic District is really exciting to see and have in this part of Chaffee Crossing,” Mann said.
Since Quentin Willard established the Fort Smith Brewing Company four years ago, there hasn’t been a lot of development. The brewing company is just down the street from the barracks. The three flagship companies are the Brewery, Old Fort Furniture and JKC Sellers.
But Willard still hopes to see the goal of creating a thriving entertainment district in Chaffee Crossing come to fruition.
“It just reassures us that the dream is still going on. We’re still trying to create this walking, eating and drinking community, ”said Willard.
He believes Sumpter’s plan will attract more people to the area, bringing more customers to the Fort Smith Brewing Company.
“The east side of Fort Smith, there are really no entertainment options so it will be an entertainment option for this side of town,” Sumpter said.
Regarding other developments underway at Chaffee Crossing, Mann said Mars Petcare is expanding its business under a $ 262 million project. On Tuesday, NAI Harmon Group purchased 30 acres that will house two 300,000 square foot warehouses.
Alex Gladden graduated from the University of Arkansas. She previously reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Jonesboro Sun before joining the Times Record. She can be contacted at [email protected]