An old hotel sitting on more than three acres on a high-traffic section of Rogers Avenue near Interstate 540 in Fort Smith has been purchased by The Westphal Group with plans to open up the property and prepare it for retail and other tenants.
Fort Smith-based The Westphal Group bought the 3.36 acres for just under $1.5 million and company owner Bennie Westphal plans to soon demolish the 108-room Hometown Suites hotel and open up the view for a section of Rogers Avenue that sees an estimated 38,200 cars per day. The hotel was new in June 1975.
Opening up the property also makes more visible Westphal’s property that lies immediately west along Rogers and is home to Furr’s, Staples and Taco Bueno.
The one-acre portion of the land just acquired that sits along Rogers and is served with a stop light is generating interest from potential tenants.
“We’re getting a lot of interest in that front corner. That’s just a hot piece of property because of that light,” Westphal explained.
Hotel demolition will begin in the next few weeks, with the property “slicked off” by the first of 2014, said Wayne Phillips, chief investment officer for The Westphal Group.
“Just based on the calls we are already getting, I’d be surprised if we don’t have that corner lot there up front sold in 90 days after that (demolition is complete),” Westphal added.
As for new tenants on the property, anything is possible. Westphal and Phillips said it could be a multi-tenant retail center, a restaurant, a stand-alone retailer and possibly a hotel on the back of the property.
This is by no means the first development rodeo for The Westphal Group. Among their many developments, the most similar could be the 13 acres to the east of the I-540 and Rogers interchange that now is home to The Hampton Inn, TGIFridays, Logan’s Roadhouse, Starbucks and My Dentist. A Best Buy store was once on the property, but is now used as office space by Fort Smith-based Arkansas Best Corp.
Fort Smith commercial Realtor Jim Nunnelee has over the past 17 years worked with three different property owners in an effort to sell and redevelop the hotel property.
“To see something happen there that is new and to see more retail come in, it’s just going to improve everything there on that part of Rogers (Avenue). ... You could have almost any kind of retail big box there on the back side of that property,” Nunnelee said, adding that he hopes the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department will also work to improve that section of the state highway.
Losing the hotel rooms will not be big loss to hospitality tax collections received by the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau, said bureau Executive Director Claude Legris.
The hotel remitted $10,618 in tax collections in 2011, or about $884 a month. In 2012, collection revenue from the hotel fell to $8,667, down to $722 per month. For the first eight months of 2013, revenue from the hotel collections was $3,946, or just under $500 a month.
By way of comparison, hospitality tax revenue from The Hampton Inn – the business hotel in Fort Smith – averaged $10,224 a month.
Legris said it’s likely that other hotels in the city will make up the difference as the traffic at Hometown shifts to other hotels.
Bennie Westphal is an investor in The City Wire.