Springdale Council rejects offer to buy town center site on Emma Avenue

SPRINGDALE — City Council on Tuesday rejected 6-2 an offer to sell land on downtown East Emma Avenue, which the city is working to rejuvenate and revitalize.

Omar Kasim of Kasim Ventures has offered $465,000 to purchase the 1.47 acres at the east end of Emma Avenue, immediately west of Springdale Municipal Airport.

Kasim said he is planning a mixed-use development with 5,000 square feet of usable space and larger commercial spaces for rent on the ground floor. It provides for an investment of 10 to 15 million dollars.

Kasim has also agreed to donate right-of-way space on his property to access the Market Center of the Ozarks, a Walton Family Foundation project, which will be located south of the city property, and for a new streetscape along that part of Emma that the city will include in its next bond issue.

The city purchased the 2-acre site in 2018 for $304,000.

Mayor Doug Sprouse said the city had no plan for the land and said he could not see the city ever having a use for the land. He said he would rather see development on the land benefit residents and bring in money for taxpayers than sit empty.

Board members had few questions and comments during the meeting, but did have a discussion on March 16 when the sale was presented to members at the full board committee meeting.

City council member Mike Overton, who is a real estate agent, said the city should keep the property as the value should increase.

“We heard Market Center was going to be the best thing since sliced ​​bread,” Overton said. “How excited are we to sell this land? I don’t see the incentive to sell now. Why don’t we wait and see if the development takes off? We have more money than ever in our general fund. We don’t We’re in no rush for money.”

Higher land prices translate into higher rental prices, Kasim noted. For businesses to succeed downtown, they need to be able to rent space at affordable rates, he said.

Overton and council member Kevin Flores said May 16 that any property owned and sold by the city should be advertised for offers and open to all buyers.

Sprouse noted that Kasim came to city officials with an offer for the appraised price. The property was appraised in March.

“It is my duty to present any full price offers to the board,” he said.

Kasim noted on May 16 that if the city opens up to buyers, the city may lose some control over the type of development that takes place there.

“A Dallas holding company, wanting to invest their money in an area of ​​opportunity, could buy the property and develop it as they see fit, or just leave it undeveloped,” Kasim said.

Development on the property should meet standards set by the city in the Forms-Based Code for Downtown, Planning Department Director Patsy Christie said Tuesday.

Kasim purchased the old Washington School building from the Springdale School District. He opened the building for co-working spaces for nonprofit agencies and other groups aiming to transition to permanent downtown locations.

He owns and opened the Con Queso restaurant west of the Razorback Greenway. He sold the houses in the town of Willella – including his own – to build a new center for the elderly.

“You trusted me to be part of downtown Springdale,” Kasim said. “My home and my business are here. I’m interested in everything that happens here.”