About two years since downtown Springdale saw an influx of private investment on and around Emma Avenue, a few property owners have brought their projects to fruition and others are starting to divulge their development plans.
It looks like the early stages of something people have long fought for — a development boom in downtown Springdale.
Previous revitalization efforts have fizzled. But this one is bolstered by investments from Tyson Foods Inc. and a Walton family interest, and the consensus in the neighborhood is that, this time, it’s the real deal.
A 2015 Walton Family Foundation study showed the Razorback Greenway paved bike trail funnels about 1,000 people per week onto Emma Avenue, and Tyson Foods will employ about 300 staff downtown, once construction is completed on a 40,000-SF office, where work is underway and scheduled for completion next summer. The city has begun implementing a downtown master plan, the Downtown Springdale Alliance is sponsoring programs and building economic development strategy, and business owners are excited about the prospect of healthy competition.
In other words, everyone involved seems to be tuned into the effort, and that coordination, some say, will be the key to its success.
“Everyone’s getting on board. That’s the cool thing about it,” said Rob Kimbel, who in September 2015 bought five properties in downtown Springdale for a collective $1 million with business partner Don Struebing.
Kimbel is the former owner of Kimbel Mechanical Systems Inc. and a 15-year resident of Springdale. Struebing, operations manager at Kimbel’s Spring Creek Rentals, is a longtime Springdale resident and former high school football coach.
Kimbel said he and Struebing made the buys, in part, to keep momentum going.
“There’d been this push for Springdale redevelopment, but it seemed like it was struggling a little bit,” he said.
“I always felt like the investment would pay dividends. Any time the Waltons and the Tysons get behind something, you know it’s going to be good — but I knew it would be a long-term deal,” he said. “I also felt like if people like me jumped on board then it would encourage others to do it as well.”
Now, Kimbel is one of a few leading the charge for development and new businesses.
Kimbel’s efforts will begin with the redevelopment of 116 W. Emma Ave. as a craft beer bar and bottle shop called The Odd Soul.
Operations manager Jeffro Brown says the venue will offer 19 brews on tap, in addition to a variety of bottled beers, a pool table, live music and a traditional soda fountain.
The current tenant, the Photographic Society of NWA, is relocating to Bentonville soon, and if all goes to plan The Odd Soul will open before the end of the year.
At 101 W. Emma Ave., Kimbel is planning a development called Downtown Blend, which might include a new concept — a shared space for a café and restaurant, with a common area in the middle.
No deal has been made yet, but Kimbel said Onyx Coffee Lab owner Jon Allen and chef Jason Paul, owner of Heirloom restaurant in Rogers, have both looked at the property.
Modus Design Studio of Fayetteville has designed the space, but Kimbel said he will wait to pull the trigger on the renovation project until the timing is right, contingent on the completion of key projects, including the Tyson Foods offices.
“We want it to be vibrant and be cool. I’m willing to hold the building for six months, if I need to,” he said.
Kimbel and Struebing also own the property which houses The Steam restaurant, open since last spring, in addition to 109 W. Emma Ave. and 111 W. Emma Ave., but they did not announce plans for the latter two properties.
The buildings are adjacent to a key piece of property owned by the Tyson family, the old Famous Hardware building at 113 W. Emma Ave. The Tyson family has not yet announced its plans for the hardware building.
Meanwhile, Philip Taldo, a co-owner of Weichert Realtors — The Griffin Co., is weighing several options for a piece of property he bought in 2014, the Watson Furniture building on Main Street, where his father worked for 45 years.
Taldo remembers, as a student at Springdale High School, walking down to get a cherry limeade after football practice at Joyce’s drugstore in then-bustling downtown Springdale.
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