LR mall on road to '15 opening

Revamped interchange expected to be ready, officials say

Posted: June 25, 2014 at 2:46 a.m.

Michael Barelli (from left), vice president of New England Development, talks Tuesday with Lloyd Garrison, chief executive of CDI Contractors, the project manager, and Gus Vratsinas of Bailey Construction and Consulting, which is the on-site representative for New England Development at the site of the 176.4-acre Gateway Town Center development in southwest Little Rock.

The Outlets at Little Rock will open for business on July 31, 2015, and the revamped Interstate 430/Interstate 30 interchange is expected to be ready.

That was the picture presented Tuesday by New England Development and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Highway and Transportation Department spokesman Danny Straessle said in November that the interchange would not be finished until 2016 or 2017, well beyond the targeted opening of the 325,000-square-foot outlet mall, the second feature of the 176.4-acre Gateway Town Center development. A Bass Pro Shops opened in November.

But the bids came in this month at more than twice the estimated $15 million to $20 million cost for the project, Straessle said Tuesday. The best bid was $43.7 million. They were thrown out, and the department is seeking new bids.

Now the project will be done in two phases, Straessle said. The scaled-down first part will include the addition of a southbound ramp off I-430, feeding into the I-30 frontage road and to the shopping center as well as Otter Creek Road farther west. There is no timetable for the second phase, he said. The second phase will include a widening of the frontage road, addition of a westbound exit on I-30 east of the interchange and addition of a ramp off I-30 westbound.

The modified first phase is estimated to cost between $5 million and $10 million and should be completed by the end of this year, Straessle said. Bids are due July 23.

Straessle said the plan all along was to do that part of the project first.

Officials of New England Development and CDI Contractors LLC, construction manager for the project, toured the 30-acre site Tuesday. Preparation began last week.

Construction is expected to start in mid- to late August, New England Development Vice President Michael Barelli said.

New England Development expects 75 to 80 stores in the mall and about 1,000 full- and part-time employees, Barelli said.

He said leases have been signed with some tenants, and the company is "deep in discussions" with many others.

Barelli would not say with whom he is talking, but said that the stores in one of the company's malls that opened in West Palm Beach, Fla., in February are a good indication of what could be expected in Little Rock.

Palm Beach Outlets, which has more than 100 stores, had 1 million visitors in the first month, said Deborah Black, vice president for marketing for New England Development.

The stores there include: Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, J.Crew/Crewcuts Factory, Ann Taylor Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Kenneth Cole, Talbots, Under Armour Factory Store, and White House Black Market.

"The Little Rock [mall] is one that tenants want to be in. We're lucky to be developing a project in Little Rock," he said.

The project will be the only outlet mall in Arkansas. The closest competitors are in Branson and one being planned for Southaven, Miss., Barelli said.

Business on 06/25/2014


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