The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (May 3) approved zoning for an estimated $50 million residential development that developer Mark Rouse says will be unique to the city and could provide housing for foreign military pilots and their families who are expected to arrive in mid-2023.
The 43-acre property sits on the north side of Interstate 540 via Fort Smith with Ebbing Air National Guard Base at the adjacent Fort Smith Regional Airport on the south side of I-540.
The reflux was selected on June 8, 2021 by Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth to be the long-term pilot training center supporting F-16 and F-35 fighter jets purchased by Singapore, Switzerland and others countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The first 12 F-16s are expected to arrive at Ebbing in June 2023. The center is estimated to house 345 U.S. service members and bring to Ebbing or Selfridge more than 180 Singaporean unit personnel and approximately 300 dependents – 825 in total.
In an interview with Talk Business & Politics ahead of Tuesday’s board meeting, Rouse said “Treetop” homes are 2-3 story vertical homes with rooftop decks. They are only built on hillside land with “beautiful views and lots of trees around them,” he said.
Phase 1 will consist of 46 lots for treetop units and 37 duplexes, with a development cost estimated by Rouse at around $50 million. Future phases, which could begin construction in early 2023, will be a mix of townhouses and apartments. He said they estimate that about 60% of the treehouses will be acquired by foreign military families.
“We think a lot of air force people from other countries will want to be here. I mean, logistically, it’s minutes from the airport, and it’s overlooking, these units (tree tops) are overlooking the airport, and they can see everything coming and going there,” said said Rouse.
Rouse said he had had “incredible success” with a development of similar treetop homes in Fayetteville, near Mount Sequoyah. Those homes are about 2,000 square feet and sell for around $450,000, he said. He said prices could be lower in Fort Smith, but not by much. He also said the quality, unique styles and modern amenities of the treetop units, townhouses and duplexes mean the development will not become a low-income residential area – which neighbors have expressed concerns at recent community meetings about the project.
“It will be the complete opposite of low income or low rent. This is going to be a very high-end development. It’s something Fort Smith hasn’t seen,” Rouse said. “This is going to be a big development for Fort Smith. And it’s an infill project for the city, which you don’t really see much anymore. You know, a lot of these projects go east to Chaffee Crossing, but that’s right in the middle of Fort Smith.
Increased traffic was another concern expressed by those living near the planned development. Traffic studies by Traffic Engineering Consultants (TEC) of Fayetteville and the Little Rock office of Halff Associates suggest that existing streets can handle the additional traffic. The TEC prepared the report for Rouse and Halff reviewed the findings of the TEC for the City of Fort Smith.
“Based on the results of the analyzes conducted, no traffic controls or geometric pavement improvements are required due to the proposed site for traffic to continue to operate at acceptable levels of service, now and for many years to come. in the future,” the TEC report noted.
After several rounds of questions and answers about drainage and traffic, council votes 6-0 to approve Rouse’s zoning application.