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story.lead_photo.caption The old Sears department store at Interstate 630 and South University Avenue is part of a $100 million restaurant and retail development planned by a Dallas firm. - Photo by Melissa Gerrits

Plans are in place for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the site of Little Rock's shuttered Sears store, with the construction of several new restaurants and businesses set to begin this fall.

The city's Board of Directors voted unanimously both to establish the 30-acre property, which sits at the northwest corner of Interstate 630 and South University Avenue, as a planned commercial district and to abandon the existing covenants there to allow the project to move forward.

The space that will become The District at Midtown currently holds two medical office buildings and a parking lot that has sat mostly empty since the Sears department store at 600 S. University Ave. closed more than two years ago.

Robert Brown, the Little Rock consultant on the project, said at the board's meeting Tuesday that there would be both drive-thru and sit-down restaurants but did not name any specific eateries. He previously said some would be chain restaurants when the Little Rock Planning Commission approved the plans for the redevelopment in May.

Previous plans for the site posted online included several chains that did not yet have outlets in Little Rock, including Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, Uncle Julio's and Panda Express, as well as Chili's and Starbucks. That site plan was only online for about a day before it was taken down. The project was at that time called The Shops at University Village.

The redevelopment would also reconfigure an on-ramp to Interstate 630 and create an access road to reach University Avenue. The plans also include a traffic circle in the middle of the area and a traffic signal at the intersection of West Sixth Street, also called District Avenue.

Two four-story hotels -- one with 107 rooms and another with 90 rooms -- would be constructed near existing office buildings.

One hotel will take the place of a building that once housed Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics, which now has an office on Fair Park Boulevard. The clinic's surgery center is still located in a medical office building at the corner of Midtown Avenue and McKinley Street, which border the space to the north and west.

"I think a lot of us, since Sears closed down, wondered what this was going to be, and I think these plans are so neat," At-large City Director Joan Adcock said at Tuesday's meeting.

The development is located in Ward 3. City Director Kathy Webb, who represents that area, was presiding over the meeting and did not vote.

Construction will likely begin late fall, said Chris Anderson, a development partner at Provident Realty Advisors Inc., the Dallas-based firm handling the project.

Anderson said he did not think the work on widening the section of Interstate 630 that borders the planned development to the south would affect the timeline nor the nature of the redevelopment. That construction began Monday night and is planned to last about 18 months.

The westbound on-ramp from the old Sears parking lot will not be accessible during that time, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Information for this article was contributed by Noel Oman and Brandon Riddle of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Photo by John Sykes Jr.
This Little Rock property at South University Avenue and Interstate 630, the former Sears building, is being redeveloped as an area called The District at Midtown.
A map showing the restaurants and hotels planned for the shuttered Sears site on University.

Metro on 07/19/2018

Print Headline: Sears-site redevelopment gets LR board's thumbs up

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