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Fort Chaffee, Arkansas

Program: Base Realignment and Closure

Fort Chaffee, Arkansas

The former army fort is now a master-planned Smart Growth community, with 2,200 new homes and more than 3,500 jobs.

Fort Chaffee Today

Over 20 years of building public-private partnerships has laid the foundation for a new economic engine in western Arkansas, where 2,200 new homes, and more than 3,500 jobs have replaced the 146 civilian jobs lost in the closure of Fort Chaffee.

Chaffee Crossing, as the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority’s (FCRA) project is known, is a master-planned, Smart Growth, mixed-use community that has attracted more than $1.5 billion in capital investments since 1997.  It includes 24 residential developments with capacity for more, and amenities such as new restaurants, health related services, retail and commercial businesses, parks and multi-use trails.  The 170-acre Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, can be enjoyed by all as well.  The Chaffee Crossing Historic District draws visitors to museums, restaurants, a micro-brewery, a spa and a salon.  The district contains 55 buildings and structures on the National Register of Historic Places that are now eligible for Rehabilitation Tax Credits.  A $3.5 million warehouse rehabilitation for commercial/retail use is currently underway. 

To date, there are 140 commercial entities within the Chaffee Crossing boundary.  The Chaffee Crossing industrial neighborhood boasts a prominent list of international companies, including Mars PetCare, Graphic Packaging International, Walther Arms, Umarex USA, Glatfelter, and Phoenix Metals.  These companies and others have created more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs on the former base. 

A 227-acre medical campus for the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine opened in August 2017, creating educational opportunities for 600 medical students and jobs for more than 100 faculty and staff.  The campus is expected to have an annual economic impact of $100 million. 

In September 2017, ArcBest Corporation, an Arkansas-based logistics company, opened a new, $42 million headquarters building at Chaffee Crossing with 975 new administrative and IT jobs.  The publicly-traded company has purchased 70 acres to expand in the future.


In 1995, Fort Chaffee became a sub-installation to nearby Fort Sill, OK, and that same year was recommended for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.  The Arkansas National Guard requested to lease 68,883 acres for use as a training facility, while 7,192 acres were conveyed to the state through an economic development conveyance.

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Trust was created in 1997 to oversee the development of the property.  A reuse plan was completed in July 1998, with a subsequent revision in 2008.  All of the property was conveyed to the Land Reutilization Authority by 2000. 

Once the Fort closed, the FCRA was created to ensure successful transition of the excess property for local economic development.  For FCRA, it has always been about building and maintaining working relationships—from local developers and regional associations, including the Ft. Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, and others all the way to the Governor’s office and Congress.

Since 2001, FCRA has worked to establish strong public-private partnerships with the cities of Fort Smith and Barling.  In order to lay the groundwork for projects that will benefit the region, FCRA and the cities have agreed to split the cost of any project of considerable size.  Projects have included replacing antiquated sewer and water lines, new streets, no-cost easements and no-cost property transfers for city utility structures.

To generate activity on the former fort, FCRA allowed nonprofits to move into old buildings and rehab them up to city code with sweat equity.  “I got a reputation for giving things away,” said Mr. Owen.  But it was worth it in 2007 and 2008, when private companies were nervous about making new investments.  The community saw people moving in and out of Chaffee that normally were not there.  Approximately 10 nonprofits now own or lease buildings on Chaffee Crossing.  “The nonprofits drew the for-profits to Chaffee.”

A large federal highway project also helped generate interest in Chaffee Crossing.  In 2007, Interstate I-49, which runs from Winnipeg to New Orleans, was incomplete in Arkansas.  Between 2008 and 2015, $120 million was invested in 6.5 miles of the highway project through the heart of Chaffee Crossing in addition to sections in Missouri and Northwest Arkansas.  The constant movement of dirt and trucks at Chaffee gave the impression that the development was going to be successful, even if there was no momentum at the time.  There are now three interchanges on the footprint of Chaffee Crossing, and significant development on the interchange corners. 

The FCRA has approximately 1,600 acres available to develop plus approximately 600 acres of wetlands.  According to Ivy Owen, Executive Director of FCRA, “It’s a place people want to live because jobs are being created here.”

Updated October, 2017

Point of Contact

Mr. Ivy Owen

Executive Director

Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority


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