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RemusCal

NWA will become the next megapolis of the South

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Yesterday, I spoke with a city planner for Siloam Springs and he told me that this area is going to be the next Atlanta in 15 years. He works a lot on city planning in Siloam, but also is involved in the 412 bypass which he says will probably be a toll highway. Also, this hasn't been announced yet, but 540 will get all the federal money that has been given to our area of the state. I think this is a great idea to improve it to 4 lanes each side and improve every interchange from south Fayetteville to Bella Vista. It may only take 5 years or so to complete which is great for an interstate.

Also, he says you will start seeing pretty soon buildings going vertical all along I-540. They really want to incorporate mixed-use due to the traffic situation. This will greatly reduce traffic if we can get people to stop taking their car everywhere they go. Europe and places like that have a lot of mixed-use type places and it is very pedestrian friendly. They would love for this area to be the same way. The city planners are ready for this area to keep booming though for decades to come in the future. There is no end in sight right now.

To me, that's just astonishing!

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Hm, define megapolis? If you mean like a conglomeration of multiple cities in an urban area, then I'd call NWA a mini-megapolis , even in 15 years. However, I thought that the term 'megapolis' was reserved for places like DC-Baltimore, Boston-NYC-Philly, etc.

The Siloam planner... I forget his name (you mean the skinny young guy with goutee?). The Siloam 412 Improvement Study (possible bypass) has not been discussed seriously as a toll road. The Springdale 412 bypass, well...

Also, this hasn't been announced yet, but 540 will get all the federal money that has been given to our area of the state.
?? Either you misunderstood him or he's misinformed.

Also, he says you will start seeing pretty soon buildings going vertical all along I-540. They really want to incorporate mixed-use due to the traffic situation. This will greatly reduce traffic if we can get people to stop taking their car everywhere they go. Europe and places like that have a lot of mixed-use type places and it is very pedestrian friendly. They would love for this area to be the same way. The city planners are ready for this area to keep booming though for decades to come in the future. There is no end in sight right now.

I was having a conversation about that subject yesterday in our office-- whether NWA's influx of mixed-use developments (proposals and under construction) is (1) just as common throughout other metro areas in the US and (2) whether this is just a temporary trend. I'm not an expert in each cities' land use planning/policies in NWA, but it seems this influx (for lack of a better term) is more developer driven rather than a direct result of proactive/progressive planning. Hopefully they will be successful, so as to encourage more similar developments. Maybe I'm mistaken... (urban design is not my area of expertise) Opinions?

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Yesterday, I spoke with a city planner for Siloam Springs and he told me that this area is going to be the next Atlanta in 15 years. He works a lot on city planning in Siloam, but also is involved in the 412 bypass which he says will probably be a toll highway. Also, this hasn't been announced yet, but 540 will get all the federal money that has been given to our area of the state. I think this is a great idea to improve it to 4 lanes each side and improve every interchange from south Fayetteville to Bella Vista. It may only take 5 years or so to complete which is great for an interstate.

Also, he says you will start seeing pretty soon buildings going vertical all along I-540. They really want to incorporate mixed-use due to the traffic situation. This will greatly reduce traffic if we can get people to stop taking their car everywhere they go. Europe and places like that have a lot of mixed-use type places and it is very pedestrian friendly. They would love for this area to be the same way. The city planners are ready for this area to keep booming though for decades to come in the future. There is no end in sight right now.

To me, that's just astonishing!

That's awesome! Thanks for the information. There are a lot of people looking at Northwest Arkansas as a place to live, play and do business. It's one of the few big towns with a small town feel. With the right planning it'll be one of the few megalopolis's with a small town feel.

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I really do like the mixed-use buildings. I think it coincides with a trend that's popular at the moment. You never know how things will work out. A decade or two people will think mixed-use buildings are 'outdated' and want to rebuild them or something. Since NWA will grow a lot during this phase we'll probably be a good place in the area to see mixed-use buildings in action. But as I said before I really do like that type of building. I guess I can see a miniature version of a megalopolis because we'll have a number of cities and not any of them dominating the others. Not sure if we can keep up the growth and for how long. It could be a very long time before we are big enough to be considered a megalopolis. I am curious to hear more about our road situation. I do find it more likely that money will be spent on I-540 and making some of the other roads toll roads. I think it be hard to make the existing I-540 a toll road after people have gotten used to it not being one. I'm not even sure if it works that way just to expand it. The Bella Vista bypass sounds more and more like it will be a toll road and I'm betting there's a good chance the Springdale bypass will be the same way. Either that or it will be a long long time before it's ever done.

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I myself think that's great news.

But what's going to continue driving jobs in the area?

Certainly we can't rely on Wal-Mart and Tyson to continue drawing in jobs of various types. NWA lacks other job sectors (at least Benton County). If something like an IT Boom, or something along those lines happended then I could see us continue bringing in people.

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I myself think that's great news.

But what's going to continue driving jobs in the area?

Certainly we can't rely on Wal-Mart and Tyson to continue drawing in jobs of various types. NWA lacks other job sectors (at least Benton County). If something like an IT Boom, or something along those lines happended then I could see us continue bringing in people.

I do think the companies that we have could keep providing some new jobs, but you are right in that we really should have some other options available as well. That way if something major happened to any of those companies the metro wouldn't get hit so badly. It might take a little while to get going but I think Fayetteville is looking more towards trying to get some tech industry going.

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Sometime this Feb or Mar the NARTS Long Range Plan will go out for public comment. At that time the proposed funding for future improvements/projects will be made public. It would be inappropriate for me to say anything before it was officially made public. However, the NARTS LRP is just their suggestion of transportation funding for the region. The Highway Commission has the final say.

I seriously doubt I-540 will ever be a traditional toll facility.

I think I-540 will be the major focus for major developments through the near future (<20 yrs), IMO. There just aren't any other nature major arterial corridors. When the Springdale 412 bypass gets built, it will I think naturally attract major developments near the 71B, 264, and 112 interchanges. I-540 is obviously vital for economic activity for NWA.

I saw an interesting statistic which I hadn't seen before in today's Ark Dem-Gaz NWA edition-- that I think between 1980 and 1999, 62% of the jobs added in Arkansas were in NWA. I didn't see the reference.

I'm also curious if any of NWA high-tech companies make it big. For example, the RFID company(ies) in NWA doing work for Wal-Mart-- maybe they will become major suppliers of RFID chips, etc. Or any other company doing high-tech sort of R and D for Wal-Mart, etc.

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I'm also curious if any of NWA high-tech companies make it big. For example, the RFID company(ies) in NWA doing work for Wal-Mart-- maybe they will become major suppliers of RFID chips, etc. Or any other company doing high-tech sort of R and D for Wal-Mart, etc.

It is possible that Wal-Mart's tech vendors in NWA, in an effort to reduce operating costs, will move their IT operations here. It could also work the other way by them moving their local IT jobs elsewhere. I'm not naming any vendors in particular, but as Wal-Mart grows and drives RFID technology this area will see some growth in IT jobs. I don't see it being enough to make Northwest Arkansas the Midwest's Silicon Valley, but it may help keep IT people in this area instead of moving on to bigger markets. That may be what is needed to get non-Wal-Mart IT companies to choose Northwest Arkansas for their operations, including non-technical call centers.

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I saw an interesting statistic which I hadn't seen before in today's Ark Dem-Gaz NWA edition-- that I think between 1980 and 1999, 62% of the jobs added in Arkansas were in NWA. I didn't see the reference.

I'm also curious if any of NWA high-tech companies make it big. For example, the RFID company(ies) in NWA doing work for Wal-Mart-- maybe they will become major suppliers of RFID chips, etc. Or any other company doing high-tech sort of R and D for Wal-Mart, etc.

Yeah I think I saw that figure somewhere myself. I think if you add the Little Rock metro that makes up most of all the new jobs in Arkansas. But it is interesting to see NWA dominate it that much.

It is possible that Wal-Mart's tech vendors in NWA, in an effort to reduce operating costs, will move their IT operations here. It could also work the other way by them moving their local IT jobs elsewhere. I'm not naming any vendors in particular, but as Wal-Mart grows and drives RFID technology this area will see some growth in IT jobs. I don't see it being enough to make Northwest Arkansas the Midwest's Silicon Valley, but it may help keep IT people in this area instead of moving on to bigger markets. That may be what is needed to get non-Wal-Mart IT companies to choose Northwest Arkansas for their operations, including non-technical call centers.

Yeah I could see that happening. I also hope we can get some tech jobs not necessarily dependant on Wal-mart as well.

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Yeah I could see that happening. I also hope we can get some tech jobs not necessarily dependant on Wal-mart as well.

Not much happens in NWA that isn't dependent on Wal-Mart. This area doesn't have anything at all to offer IT professionals other than Wal-Mart so whether this area gets IT jobs or not depends soley on Wal-Mart.

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I was having a conversation about that subject yesterday in our office-- whether NWA's influx of mixed-use developments (proposals and under construction) is (1) just as common throughout other metro areas in the US and (2) whether this is just a temporary trend. I'm not an expert in each cities' land use planning/policies in NWA, but it seems this influx (for lack of a better term) is more developer driven rather than a direct result of proactive/progressive planning. Hopefully they will be successful, so as to encourage more similar developments. Maybe I'm mistaken... (urban design is not my area of expertise) Opinions?

I'd say, if anything, NWA is late in the game for mixed use development. For a metro of its size, however, I'd say that it has an impressive number of mixed use proposals on the drawing board. And lets not forget that Three Sisters was a project ahead of its time and the benchmark for the mixed use infill concept in NWA. At the time it was constructed, it was at the forefront of the current trend.

DFW has seen several mixed use projects beginning about 6 years ago and growing stronger every year. The D.C. area is exploding with mixed use development in just about every direction. In fact, on a recent trip there and into the Maryland and NoVa burbs, I don't recall seeing any residential developments that weren't incorporating some type of mixed use development. EVERYWHERE they were putting up four and five story condo/townhome buildings with retail below and pedestrian friendly environments. There's not a major metro in the country that isn't on the mixed-use bandwagon.

I think that the current mixed use trend is here to stay. Its arisen in many cities as a backlash to the un-ending sprawl and lack of a "sense of place" in generic suburbs. Mixed use development is just a return to what was the traditional style of urban development pre WWII.

Its smart, attractive, and produces more sustainable structures than the cul-de-sac tract homes and strip mall development it is replacing. As this country fills up, the denser development allows us to preserve more of our precious open spaces, so I'm glad that NWA is getting into these types of developments relatively early on in its growth.

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I'd say, if anything, NWA is late in the game for mixed use development. For a metro of its size, however, I'd say that it has an impressive number of mixed use proposals on the drawing board. And lets not forget that Three Sisters was a project ahead of its time and the benchmark for the mixed use infill concept in NWA. At the time it was constructed, it was at the forefront of the current trend.

DFW has seen several mixed use projects beginning about 6 years ago and growing stronger every year. The D.C. area is exploding with mixed use development in just about every direction. In fact, on a recent trip there and into the Maryland and NoVa burbs, I don't recall seeing any residential developments that weren't incorporating some type of mixed use development. EVERYWHERE they were putting up four and five story condo/townhome buildings with retail below and pedestrian friendly environments. There's not a major metro in the country that isn't on the mixed-use bandwagon.

I forgot about the Three Sisters building-- I remember that being a big deal when it was built.

That's one thing I don't have a good feel of, is that driving around suburbs of bigger cities-- I knew mixed-use was 'in', but to what extent, I wasn't sure. That's good to hear.

I'm still curious though to what extent the mixed-use development boom is developer driven (i.e., market driven) or city driven, or both. I'm sure it's quite a bit market driven, but then I'm curious if it's because people are looking for those developments (and willing to pay $ for it) and/or if it's because of land prices. I can definitely see the rising cost of land around NWA being a major impetuous for higher density mixed-use type developments. And I would definitely consider living in one (depending on $). Also, I can see DFW and DC area getting higher-density type developments in the suburbs, because commuting up to 30-50 miles one way per day to/from work in a car would seem unbearable to me IMO (esp. for DC/NVa where a lot of employement is obviously concentrated in DC proper).

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What about the new Tech type park in South Fayetteville. They have the Genesis Incubator there, as well as many other small IT companies. They seem to be rapidly expanding. It seems that I hear about at least one per week getting some sort of research/development grant. This seems to be causing a pretty good draw to that part of the area. With the Southpass project not far away and the university growing that way. What do you guys think? Could this be the next mini Simi Valley?

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NWA is not the next Atlanta. Hell, I don't even like Atlanta.

I have mostly good things to say about NWA but that kind of growth won't happen. It's not the next Atlanta or DFW but it may equal cities like LR or Tulsa at some point.

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I agree with aporkalypse. The growth going on in NWA is going on in a lot of places in the south. It's far too premature to make a prediction like that.

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The only reason growth in Northwest Arkansas is even noticable is because this area has never had anything more than a middleweight university and a couple Fortune 500 companies. So yeah, it's easier for people in bigger cities that already have everything to notice these little towns in NWA growing so fast.

Northwest Arkansas is definitely lacking in many areas that are integral to a metro's ability to grow, such as infrastructure, diversity, mass transportation and entertainment. IMO, NWA's growth is about to peak and I doubt we'll ever see this kind of growth in NWA again.

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The only reason growth in Northwest Arkansas is even noticable is because this area has never had anything more than a middleweight university and a couple Fortune 500 companies. So yeah, it's easier for people in bigger cities that already have everything to notice these little towns in NWA growing so fast.

Northwest Arkansas is definitely lacking in many areas that are integral to a metro's ability to grow, such as infrastructure, diversity, mass transportation and entertainment. IMO, NWA's growth is about to peak and I doubt we'll ever see this kind of growth in NWA again.

I think that's the bigger question, is growth going to slow down anytime soon. I can see growth keep going for a while but I have my doubts it can continue at this rate because I just can't see infrastructure being able to keep up. But it's hard to say because many people never thought the growth would have lasted this long either.

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The only reason growth in Northwest Arkansas is even noticable is because this area has never had anything more than a middleweight university and a couple Fortune 500 companies. So yeah, it's easier for people in bigger cities that already have everything to notice these little towns in NWA growing so fast.

Northwest Arkansas is definitely lacking in many areas that are integral to a metro's ability to grow, such as infrastructure, diversity, mass transportation and entertainment. IMO, NWA's growth is about to peak and I doubt we'll ever see this kind of growth in NWA again.

I'll agree.

Unless NWA gets another Fortune 500 company or a massive Tech boom comes, I can't see us getting that big. If we were to become the size of the Atlanta area, we'd have to grow by literally 5 Million people considering how big the Atlanta MSA area is. I can see us continuing a steady small growth rate, and reaching the size of Little Rock area, but definately not to the ranks of the megalopolisis of Atlanta, Dallas, or Miami.

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I'll agree.

Unless NWA gets another Fortune 500 company or a massive Tech boom comes, I can't see us getting that big. If we were to become the size of the Atlanta area, we'd have to grow by literally 5 Million people considering how big the Atlanta MSA area is. I can see us continuing a steady small growth rate, and reaching the size of Little Rock area, but definately not to the ranks of the megalopolisis of Atlanta, Dallas, or Miami.

I think thats realistic.

People projecting NWA as a DFW or ATL in the next 20 years probably haven't spent much time in a true large city. You are talking about a metro ten to fifteen times the size of NWA. If that happens to NWA, I think its more realistic to peg it happening sometime near the end of this century.

To continue growth, NWA needs to find a way to diversify its employment base.

I don't see a sizeable tech boom coming, as there are many major metros where the infrastructure for the tech industries are already in place but the recovery from the tech bust of the late 90s early 00s is just starting to turn things around. There is some really cheap class A office space to be had right now in Richardson in the Telecom corridor here, and the overall metroplex cost of living isn't expensive as far as big cities go.

I tend to believe the NWA is in a bit of a catch up mode right now, particularly in the retail sector, and that the growth will eventually level off, although remain steady and healthy for many years to come.

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If NWA ever becomes another Dallas or Atlanta I don't think it will be in any of our lifetimes. I'm not saying it's not possible, but not too likely and as I said I just can't see that much growth happening in a relatively short amount of time. I also think it's more likely that at some point in the near future the main growth spurt will end. I think it's more of a question of how long before it happens. As I said before I just have a hard time imagining that the infrastructure will be able to keep up. There really any signs right now showing that the infrastructure is keeping up right now let alone for future growth. I do think that after the big growth spurt things will keep growing at a nice pace, more at a healthy normal pace. Which could really be a good thing to let the area try to play catch up with infrastructure.

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Yeah there is no way NWA will get as big as an Atlanta, DFW, whatever in our lifetime. That would require a rate of growth much, much higher than what it is now, which is near impossible to do. Especially when it comes to transportation improvements, which is crazy enough as it is. Keys to catching up: cities issuing bonds to pay for hurry-up improvements and someone like the NWA Council utilizing their influence to secure more federal funding for big-name projects.

I'm curious myself as to how much more Fayetteville South 'tech park' will grow. I think the bottom line, which people here are indicating as well, is that at some point the rate of growth associated with Tysons, Hunt, and esp Wal-Mart will cool off. So if NWA wants to continue the growth, it looks like it will need to attract other major businesses or be the breeding ground for something else big. Fayetteville South is quaint right now, but that's it. If NWA were to have a truly big-city office park/corporate office, I can't imagine it not being somewhere along I-540 corridor.

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The problem with Northwest Arkansas playing the catch-up game is that NWA needs to catch-up to where we should have been 10-20 years ago and by the time we get there NWA will still be way behind the bigger MSA's that have always stayed ahead of the game as far as infrastructure, transportation and diversity.

I don't really mind though, one of the reasons I love Northwest Arkansas is because it's NOT a big city like Dallas, Atlanta or even Little Rock. There's plenty of big cities within 6 hours driving distance from NWA so when I start missing noise, smog, crime, drugs and traffic I can just point my car in any direction.

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Yeah I think many people want growth but don't necessarily want our metro to simply become just like any other place. Of course I'm sure there's a number of people who'd like to stop the growth where it is right now too.

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