Jul 19, 2023 - Business

Northwest Arkansas Council jumpstarts attainable housing project

Renderings: BiLD Architects. Courtesy: Northwest Arkansas Council

Urbanist Richard Florida last year warned members of the Northwest Arkansas Council that the area could be a victim of its own economic success, noting skyrocketing housing prices.

  • The group recently took a step toward solving the problem.

Driving the news: At its annual meeting Tuesday, the council revealed its collaboration on a 77-unit apartment project that will permanently earmark 30 units for families earning below the area median income, which is $92,400, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • The project is supported by a $6.75 million grant from Walton Family Foundation.

Why it matters: Housing and rent prices continue to soar in NWA, making it harder for lower- and middle-range wage earners — nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, restaurant workers and more — to afford to live in the area.

  • And the area continues to add about 36 people per day, the council estimates, continually squeezing the supply of homes.

Details: The apartment project, called Big Emma, will be at Emma Avenue and Park Street in downtown Springdale.

  • Investors Ken Hall, Don Harris and Tom Lundstrum, through their Shiloh Capital fund, originally commissioned the project to echo their Little Emma apartments nearby.
  • Community Development NWA will manage the property.

Context: The NWA Council is a private, nonprofit organization working to advance job opportunities, recruitment, infrastructure, access to health care, attainable housing and quality of life in the region.

Of note: The Walton Family Foundation grant is specifically directed at the 30 attainable units, Meredith Bergstrom, senior program officer for WFF's home region, told Axios.

Meanwhile, Nelson Peacock, executive director of the council, and others provided a few updates of note:

  • There are still thousands of job openings in NWA in health care, construction and technology.
  • An ad campaign that began in late November 2020 helped grow national awareness of the region to 66%, up from 31% in 2018.
  • NWA recycled more than 45,000 tons of cardboard, glass tires, electronics and other materials in calendar 2022.

What's next: Construction on Big Emma is expected to begin in the "coming weeks" and developers are aiming for an opening in late 2024 or early 2025.

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