Former Hi-Way Inn property rezoned and ready for redevelopment

Former Hi-Way Inn Motel property (Flyer photo/Todd Gill)

FAYETTEVILLE — The former Hi-Way Inn property is ready for redevelopment on College Avenue.

The City Council last week voted 8-0 to rezone the 0.6-acre site across from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Regional Northwest campus.

The former motel had been used as public housing by the Fayetteville Housing Authority, and was set to be renovated, but was instead sold to AMR Architects by the authority’s development nonprofit to recoup losses related to the pandemic. The site is also home to Cafe Rue Orleans restaurant.

The new UT, urban thoroughfare zoning district will once again allow the property to be used as a hotel. The Housing Authority in 2019 successfully rezoned the site from a commercial thoroughfare district to a community services district so the former motel rooms could be used for public housing. Community services allows apartments, but prohibits hotels without a conditional use permit.

The new district was designed for commercial uses, residential uses or a mix of the two, said Jonathan Curth, the city’s development services director. It allows the full spectrum of residential uses – from single-family homes to apartments – and on the non-residential sides, it allows everything from a restaurant to a big-box retail center.

“The urban thoroughfare district is basically programmed specifically for this type of location,” Curth said.

Like the previous district, urban thoroughfare has no density cap, but it does allow buildings that are at least 15 feet from the road to be built up to seven stories high. The previous district had a height limit of five stories.

With the property sitting on a major transportation corridor like College Avenue, the new district is a perfect fit, said Curth.

The allowance for high-intensity, mixed-use development is exactly what the city envisions for College Avenue as part of the 71B Corridor Plan, which includes a series of property rezonings and street improvements. City planners are hoping for an introduction of residential uses along College Avenue where they have not been for decades, which has led to a separation of land uses.

The overall goal of the plan is to improve the corridor’s economic vitality, address congestion issues, increase affordable housing, make the stretch safer and more convenient for all modes of travel, and create a more attractive front door to Fayetteville’s downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

Curth said city planners encouraged the Housing Authority to seek the urban thoroughfare district in 2019, but the group instead decided to only ask for a district that allowed specifically what they wanted on the property.

Adam Day with AMR Architects said he’s excited to be part of the long-term corridor plan and looks forward to redeveloping the site to a more urbanized environment.

“We think it will bring back this property that has been neglected for some time,” said Day.

Day said while plans are still being developed, the idea is to incorporate Cafe Rue Orleans into a mix of uses, including a small motel component.

Councilmembers Sonia Harvey and Sloan Scroggin said they also believe the new district is appropriate for College Avenue.

“While it might not make sense in some areas, this is definitely where you put UT,” said Scroggin. “The goal is to put density in places like this so you can have less density in other places. Plus, if used to its fullest extent, this would create a lot of property tax and sales tax revenues.”

There was no public comment during the discussion.