South Yard Lofts
As one of the fastest-growing communities in the whole country, it’s easy to see how quickly the landscape of Fayetteville changes and evolves. One could leave for only a few months to return to find new businesses, new living spaces, new art. Thoughtfully designed buildings spring up from the ground seemly every week, and new life is routinely breathed into old structures.
And now, the south side of town is getting a taste of that new, exciting flavor.
Make your way to the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South School Avenue, and you’ll find a great deal of new activity, starting with a massive new building that will soon be the home of the University of Arkansas’ new flagship art studio and design center.
The Windgate Studio + Design Center will bring students and faculty together from across seven different current campus locations. The four-story 154,600-square-foot building will give the community the opportunity to participate in exhibitions, attend events with visiting artists, designers and scholars, and it elevates the experience with a courtyard and ampitheater.
A block to the east, spanning the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South School Avenue, is soon to be another major draw. The space has been in the works for a while, but it has begun to take shape, and it’s getting a lot of exciting attention in the process: South Yard.
South Yard, a major multiuse project by Specialized Real Estate Group (SREG), will feature spaces for shopping, dining, imbibing and even living. Spanning roughly 9 acres that are enclosed by Tanglewood Branch and the Razorback Greenway, South Yard will turn vacant buildings, like the former Farmers Cooperative, into shops, restaurants, and, eventually, a hotel. New structures are underway that will soon feature living spaces, including 128 new apartments — the South Yard Lofts.
The spaces will be tied together with a boardwalk that follows the route of a long-gone rail line that once served the local timber industry.
“The inspiration for South Yard comes from the community-focused nature of this very site,” says Kaitlyn Fondano, SREG’s director of development. “The farmer’s co-op was a hub for locals to gather and share stories and build community. We intentionally maintained as much of the original structure as possible, and are excited that we have an opportunity to breathe new life into a very important piece of Fayetteville’s history.”
The firm’s intentionality for the space is already receiving high praise. SREG was recently recognized by Fitwel, the world’s leading certiﬁcation system committed to building health. The project achieved a 3-star rating, Fitwel’s most prestigious rating, and became the first Fitwel-certiﬁed project in Arkansas.
To achieve the certification, the project had to address a broad range of health behaviors and risks. A few of the ways the project accomplished that include: enhanced transit stops, which encourage active transportation to enhance mental health; providing a designated display to post community events and public information in residential and public spaces to increase awareness of community events and support social engagement, contributing to enhanced social health and feelings of well-being; and training local volunteers in emergency preparedness procedures.
“We are thrilled to have another ﬁrst in Arkansas. As the leaders in cultivating healthy spaces, having a Fitwel-certiﬁed project and a 3-star rating is a milestone I am proud of our team for achieving,” says SREG’s CEO Jeremy Hudson. “South Yard Lofts will be a cornerstone of Fayetteville, and what better way to join the neighborhood than a certiﬁcation that exempliﬁes our dedication to our residents and community’s well-being.”
In addition to the Fitwel certification, the folks at SREG are in pursuit of the Indoor airPlus program, administered by the EPA as part of their commitment to indoor air quality.
“With each project, we take an opportunity to improve on our unit plans with a focus on residents’ experience and extending access to quality outdoor spaces,” Fondano says. “From the building better perspective, we’ve gone beyond a focus specific on building construction to a focus instead on building a community through a mixed-use site plan; the Fitwel program drove us towards a project based on urban design best practices and to consider the health and wellness of our residents outside of our buildings through its initiatives.”
SREG envisions the space serving as a basecamp for explorers, foodies, casual adventurers and everyone in between. For future residents, interested locals and traveling tourists, South Yard will offer restaurants on-site and a variety of live music, art and retail within steps.
Soon to be a key feature of the bourgeoning neighboring Cultural Arts Corridor, South Yard will be home to local art, too, as developers have teamed up with local artists to enrich the community with murals and other works. The space is also connected to the outdoors, with two access points to the Razorback Regional Greenway trail system. A public city-owned park will be developed along the stream banks of Tanglewood Branch.
“The South Yard Lofts development is on mile one of the Razorback Greenway and is also contained within the Outdoor Refreshment Area of downtown Fayetteville,” Fondano says. “There will be plenty of on-site options for food and drinks to offer opportunities to connect with neighbors, and the proximity to trail access and walkability to the city center encourages neighbors and visitors to traverse by foot and help strengthen the sense of community by connecting with those around us.”
For the folks at SREG, preserving familiar spaces was just as important in the design of South Yard as the promoting of connectivity.
“Keeping the original structure wasn’t the most cost-effective approach, but we felt like it was an important piece of the neighborhood and had value beyond just economic considerations,” Fondano adds. “We try to focus on improving the neighborhoods we work in and conserving this structure allows us to show another layer of this neighborhood.”
The residential phase of the project is nearing completion with an expected opening later this year. The final phase of the South Yard project includes a hotel to serve tourists and travelers, plugging them into the vibrance of the space as they come to town for concerts, sporting events, and more.
While neither was planned with the other in mind, the South Yard project and the Windgate Studio + Design Center will certainly complement each other for years to come. Both are pieces of the larger puzzle that is the reconfiguration of South School Avenue. That project was a part of a 2019 bond measure approved by Fayetteville voters. Later this year, the city will start work to turn South School Avenue into a three-lane roadway for cars with a dedicated lane for bikes and pedestrians.
The two projects, in addition to the efforts of the city, are sure to serve as catalysts for growth and development on the south side of town, which hasn’t seen as much TLC as other corners of Fayetteville. And as the city of Fayetteville continues to grow and its landscape evolves, South Yard will soon be a hub for activity and an anchor for connectivity for both new residents and longtime locals alike.
Back in Time
Those who spent time on this end of town years before the new development will quickly remember what once called it home.
Just up the block from the corner, Brenda’s Bigger Burger once served up greasy burgers to hungry students from the University and Fayetteville High School, who would sit out front at picnic tables.
Next door was the Art Experience, a community art education nonprofit started in 1993. Once housed in a colorful house near Hill Avenue, the nonprofit has since moved to College Avenue.
And at the corner where the community will soon come together to live, eat and play, stood the Farmers Cooperative where folks could buy tomato starters, little yellow chicks, feed and supplies. Gone, too, are the Korean food market and Thai restaurant that once stood around the corner of South School.
Those blocks will soon be full of life again, as locals and tourists alike will come to enjoy art, food and community.