Conway City Council voted 7 to 0 to accept a proposal and move into negotiations with Conway Development Corporation and Jim Wilson and Associates, LLC, for the Cantrell Field Redevelopment.
The proposal indicated a bid amount of $6.1 million for the 151 acres with 5 percent — $305,000 — in earnest money to be paid before certain milestones are reached.
Mayor Tab Townsell said when people ask him what the next big thing for Conway might be, he points to the development potential at the old airport site.
"This is probably every bit as much as important to the development of the city, what we do with this old airport property, right there at the entrance way to our city on the interstate" he said.
Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Conway Development Corporation, said moving forward with the redevelopment alongside Jim Wilson and Associates was "a big moment for us."
"In the 50-plus years for the CDC and the 14 years I’ve been in this job, there is nothing more exciting or more transformational for Conway than this project," he said.
Lacy said the chance to redevelop 151 acres of land next to the interstate is opportunity most cities do not get to experience, and the redevelopment of that area can have a generational impact.
Jim Wilson and Associates, based in Montgomery, Ala., impressed Lacy and the CDC with work they have done in similar developments, including the EastChase Outparcels in Montgomery, Ala.
"We feel very very comfortable with them," Lacy said. "Many of you have probably shopped in their centers not knowing that they built them or developed them."
Lacy said Jim Wilson and Associates has developed roughly 21 million square feet of retail across the country, their crown jewel being the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Ala.
The other element that made an impression on Lacy and the CDC was EastChase and the quality of development that was demonstrated, including public art, landscaping and upkeep.
Part of the attraction for developers was the overpass planned to connect Elsinger Blvd. to Cantrell Field as well as a connection back to Oak Street. City Engineer Ronnie Hall said the city is committing $12 million to those projects to enhance access to the Cantrell Field site.
"That overpass and the connection back to Oak Street and the connection from that overpass all the way back to Harkrider and Bruce streets makes sense for us on a traffic-congestion basis no matter what happens to the old airport," Townsell said. "The development potential is the land gap that we can get above and beyond."
Council voted Tuesday night at their regular city council meeting to move into negotiations with the CDC and Jim Wilson and Associates. If those negotiations do not work out, the city will move into negotiations with the other bidder, Rush-Hal Development, LLC.