More residential housing will open in downtown Fort Smith as early as January 2023, with Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties beginning a $6.5 million renovation of a former hotel into 66 apartments. Developers say it will offer “practical living” amidst “modern luxury”.
Fort Smith-based Ghan & Cooper, led by partners Kathleen Caldarera, Bob Cooper and Stuart Ghan, acquired the 54-year-old facility at 101 N. 11th St. in May for $1.57 million from WWA Company Inc. The estimated $6.5 million renovation cost includes the purchase price.
In August 2002, Woody Anderson and his father Woodrow Anderson Jr. purchased what was then a Howard Johnson Inn. The Andersons paid $1.5 million for the 65,000-square-foot hotel and invested $2.6 million in renovations to the 129-room property. The renovated hotel was an early hit, winning the Howard Johnson Image Award in 2005. But in recent years the property has stood empty, attracting only a few homeless squatters.
The new developers aren’t gutting the facility largely because almost all of the walls and floors — and first-floor ceilings — are concrete or block, Ghan said. But almost everything else is removed and updated. They are planning a mix of studios and 1 and 2 bedroom apartments that will range from around 500 square feet to 900 square feet.
The goal, according to Caldarera, is to have rents between $900 and $1,500. Rent is all-inclusive and part of what the trio frequently referred to as “convenience living.”
“It includes so many services that people would usually pay on top of that [rent] … We’re going to make it convenient, so when you move in, everything, utilities, internet, everything is there,” Ghan said.
In addition to paid utilities, trash can service and high-speed Internet, the renovated facility will include a fitness center, co-working space, saltwater pool, 24-hour on-site management 24/7 and a place to manage Amazon, food, dry cleaning and other pickups. and delivery services. Caldarera also said she’s considering a pet and bike wash, but hasn’t decided on that plan yet.
The trio also discussed plans to have large mobile TV screens around the pool for sporting events and other popular programming. Caldarera said the hotel’s grand lobby was being considered for “quarterly resident events.”
Plans also include renovating what was once the hotel’s 254-seat restaurant with a large bar. Part of this plan will see the southeast corner of the restaurant open up as patio space. Cooper said they plan to make restaurant space available at a low rate “to lower the barrier of entry for a restaurant owner” as part of a trade-off for the restaurant providing, for example, service food delivery and bar service around the pool.
The project has been in the planning for more than 18 months, Ghan said, which includes marketing research to determine key factors such as price and which demographic groups are most likely to find The Bricks an attractive lifestyle option. Part of that effort leads them to believe likely tenants could include doctors, traveling nurses and other medical personnel with Baptist Health-Fort Smith, which is less than a mile away.
They also plan to market the apartments as “The Bricks at Brunwick”. Ghan & Cooper in March 2018 purchased the historic Brunwick Place office and apartment building immediately to the west of the former hotel. They also own other surrounding properties and buildings. Ghan said the goal was for the downtown section of Fort Smith to be referred to as the “District of Brunwick”.
Caldarera said another part of the marketing will be a Facebook page featuring construction videos and photos, features on planned amenities and pre-rental information.