In Jonesboro, Developers Turn Attention Back to Caraway

by Todd Traub  on Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2018 8:00 am   3 min read

Caraway Road had been relegated to the slow lane of development in Jonesboro in recent years.

But change is underway for the once thriving thoroughfare running through the heart of the city.

Caraway had lost major businesses to the wave of growth on Red Wolf Boulevard (formerly Stadium Boulevard) as Jonesboro defied the economic downturn of 2008. But recent transactions, pending developments and new business have Caraway and intersecting Highland Drive poised to once again be a robust stretch for commerce.

"Selfishly, we live here, we own a lot of real estate here, we want that to be a vibrant corridor," said Josh Brown, principal and CCIM for Haag Brown Development, one of the primary forces behind the Caraway efforts.

Caraway and Highland had either seen businesses close or relocate to The Mall at Turtle Creek on Red Wolf or the former Fairgrounds development now known as Township Centre. But after developing 30-plus retail and restaurant projects along Red Wolf, Haag Brown has in the past few years turned its attention to redeveloping the Indian Mall site at the corner of Caraway and Highland and other sites nearby.

Memphis-based investment company Highland Street Group LLC purchased the mall in August and gave Haag Brown the go-ahead for development.

Anchored by the 125,000-SF Kroger Marketplace, opened in 2014 on the corner of Caraway and Wilkins Drive, the old mall project is on a 16.07-acre site that includes the 80,000-SF retail space that once housed Sears and 35,000-SF of retail space connecting Kroger Marketplace to the Sears building. There are four out-pads along Caraway and Highland and a large, mixed-use development behind Kroger.

Brown has said the development would be the city's largest since the Fairground/Township Centre project.

The former, 90,000-SF Kmart location on Highland now houses discount retailer Bargain Hunt, occupying 30,000 SF. Brown said there are leases pending on the remaining Kmart space and the outparcels next to the Indian Mall space.

He estimated the Kmart project would see a capital injection between $4 million-$5 million, the Kroger development was a $20 million-$30 million project and the out-parcels represent somewhere between $12 million and $15 million in development.

In all, Haag Brown has six deals pending in the Caraway-Highland area, Brown said, a number not seen since the Mall at Turtle Creek was in development.

"We're still doing a lot of stuff to finish out that Fairground development but where the really big deals are headed are to the intersection of Caraway and Highland," Brown said.

The Regions Bank building on Highland has been renovated, the vacant Coca-Cola bottling plant at the southwest corner of the intersection now houses local technology company Tech Friends Inc., and a Slim Chicken's on Highland, near its intersection with Red Wolf, is set to open in the fall.  

Developer Halsey Thrasher and Harpole has also been busy farther south at the former Caraway Plaza. Recent new businesses there include discount retailer 5 Below and a HomeGoods store.

The growth, Brown said, has been encouraged by Arkansas State and its chancellor, Kelly Damphousse, who has taken an active interest in the city and recently welcomed the groundbreaking of the Red Wolf Convention Center on campus.

Brown also acknowledged the impact of medical center mainstays Northeast Baptist and St. Bernards, who have driven growth with construction and major expansion projects.

Caraway Road once ran straight into the Arkansas State campus and onto Johnson, but campus access was closed in 2011 and Caraway suffered as traffic patterns changed.

"That was kind of the consensus [that] Caraway was old and tired, the traffic counts were declining and the population wasn't what you wanted" Brown said. "They were chasing that Red Wolf Boulevard."

Jonesboro was uniquely suited to survive the recession, Brown said, thanks to a diverse collection of medical, agricultural, educational and food production industries and no competing MSAs nearby. As a center for commerce and entertainment, Jonesboro draws people from 50 to 60 miles away, forming a hub for a trade area three times bigger than the city, Brown said.

"In Jonesboro we were a little bit immune from that," Brown said. "The key sectors that we had grew during a hard economic time."

Caraway Road may have had to bide its time, but it's getting back on track.

"It's the retail intersection of our city again," Brown said. "That only happens in markets the size of Jonesboro or Conway. That only happens 10 years or so."



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