FCRA considers land deal offer from Arkansas Colleges of Health Education

A proposal that would give the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education an option to purchase land presently committed to Fort Smith Public Schools ran into a blip Thursday (May 15) during a meeting of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority's real estate committee.

The land in question is slated to be part of the campus of a proposed third Fort Smith high school and will be donated by the FCRA. Construction of the school is largely contingent upon passage of a millage increase, which FCRA Executive Director Ivy Owen said would likely not take place until Fall 2015. The agreement with the district allows it up to 10 years to accept the donation and develop the site.

The proposal made by the ACHE, which is developing the state's first college of osteopathic medicine, would allow it to purchase 27 acres of the proposed site for $200,000 should Fort Smith Schools not develop the property by the time its offer from FCRA runs out in 2021.

FCRA board member Bob Bradford questioned whether the redevelopment authority should accept the proposed price since the value would likely increase by the time ACHE would possibly purchase the property.

ACHE President and CEO Kyle Parker said he understood the concern, but also pointed out that the increase in land value at the site would be directly tied to the development of the new medical school.

"I think it was a fair question," Parker said after the meeting. "I think the redevelopment authority has been incredibly gracious to us (by donating the original 200 acres for the medical school). But by locating the school here, we've helped the authority by increasing the value of property they're going to dispose of. All of that needs to be taken into consideration."

Parker said he hopes the new Fort Smith high school is built as proposed, but ACHE was bringing the proposal to the FCRA in order to protect itself should the deal for the high school fall through, adding that the purchase of the property would provide a buffer for ACHE from any future developments.

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"You just want to know who your neighbors are going to be," he added.

The proposal will go to a vote of the FCRA board at its May 22 meeting.

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