Fort Smith-based Ghan & Cooper, led by partners Kathleen Caldarera, Bob Cooper and Stewart Gan, acquired the 54-year-old facility at 101 N. 11th St. , in May for $1.57 million from WWA Company Inc. Million renewal cost including purchase price.
In August 2002, Woody Anderson and his father Woodrow Anderson Jr. purchased what was then the Howard Johnson Inn. Andersons paid $1.5 million for the 65,000-square-foot hotel and invested $2.6 million in renovating the 129-room hotel. The renovated hotel was an initial success, winning a Howard Johnson Image Award in 2005. But in recent years the property has been empty, attracting only a few homeless.
Gan said the new developers aren’t demolishing the facility so much because nearly all of the walls and floors — and first-floor ceilings — are concrete or brick. But almost everything else is removed and updated. They are planning a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments that range from about 500 square feet to 900 square feet.
The goal, according to Caldarera, is for rents to range between $900 and $1,500. The rent is inclusive and a part of what the trio often refer to as “adequate living.”
This includes a lot of services that people usually pay on top of that (rent). We’ll make it convenient, Gan said, so when you move in, you’ll find everything, utilities, internet, everything is there.
In addition to paid utilities, trash service and broad internet, the renovated facility will include a fitness center, co-working space, saltwater pool, 24/7 on-site management, an Amazon administration space, food, dry cleaning, and other operations. The receipt. and delivery services. Caldarera also said that they are considering setting up a pet and bike washing station, but they haven’t decided on that plan yet.
The trio also discussed plans to have large television screens moving around the pool area for sporting events and other popular programs. Caldarera said the hotel’s large lobby is under consideration “for quarterly resident events.”
Plans also include a renovation of what was previously the hotel’s 254-seat restaurant with a large bar area. Part of this plan will see the southeast corner of the restaurant open as a patio space. Cooper said they plan to make restaurant space available at a reduced rate to “reduce the barrier of entry for a restaurant owner” as part of a trade-off for a restaurant that offers, for example, food delivery and bar service around the pool.
Gan said the project has been in planning for over 18 months, which includes a marketing study to determine key factors such as price points and the demographic that is likely to find bricks an attractive living option. Part of that effort makes them believe potential tenants could include traveling doctors, 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”. In March 2018, Ghan & Cooper purchased the historic Brunwick Place office and apartment building immediately west of the former hotel. They also own the property and other surrounding buildings. The goal is for the downtown Fort Smith section to be named the “Brunwick District,” Gann said.
Another part of the marketing, Caldarera said, will be a Facebook page that includes videos and photos of the construction, features on planned amenities, and information on pre-lease.