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Developer Wooing Diamond City - 'Sugar Loaf Resort' Master Plan Unveiled to Officials, Investors
May 2005

Summerlin Equities, a Colorado-based investment group, presented an ambitious development plan for Diamond City on Friday morning.

An audience of about 100 people witnessed a richly detailed presentation of the company's master plan for Sugar Loaf Resort. The plan's initial phase calls for construction of a 160-lot housing development near Diamond Hills Country Club.

"It doesn't happen without money," Summerlin's principal partner Ron Gollehon told the audience towards the end of the presentation.

The Summerlin chief explained that without money, all the pretty plans and drawings would remain castles in the air.

"Previous false starts and broken promises have made this project more difficult," he said, referring to the developers before him who had announced big plans for Diamond City and failed to deliver.

The master plan developed by HOK Planning, one of the world's largest architecture and engineering firms, would transform the Diamond City peninsula. As presented, it would create a community with plenty of room for both industry and gated neighborhoods.

The master plan was illustrated with detailed maps and drawings of several development ideas for the Lead Hill Marina (now re-christened Sugar Loaf Harbor), the golf course and the Coffman Cove area owned by Summerlin and investor Randall Jackson. Those ideas include a lighthouse, a Boy Scout camp, and a lively commercial district.

The plan is based on aggressive development of extensive property holdings in and around the city. Summerlin and Jackson own about 800 acres of the peninsula. Their property includes hundreds of lots in the city, the marina, the land surrounding Coffman Cove and everything surrounding the golf course.

HOK is a proponent of "sustainable design," green-conscious planning. The company has developed high-profile marquee projects around the world: Wembley Stadium in suburban London, the PacBell ballpark in San Francisco, the Lincoln library in Springfield, Ill.

"We also do a lot of small projects with small communities," said HOK's Chip Crawford, who showed examples of HOK projects in Dubai, Kuwait, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Bolivia, Egypt, Indonesia, Minneapolis and St. Louis.

"We've worked with communities around the world," said Crawford. "Our projects are all different. They look and feel different because we respect the culture of their surroundings."

"People in this community said their goals included economic development and education," he said. "They want to build jobs their children will want to stay here to do."
Crawford said he and his companions walked the property with Diamond City Mayor Troy Burleson.

"We found an unexpected wealth and diversity of landscape types," he said.

"We found that one goal is to let the peninsula's drainage ways reestablish themselves. We also want to develop better connection between the interior lots and the marinas and waterfront, using and expanding on the trail system Diamond City has already begun to develop."

The peninsula, including already-developed areas, offers opportunities for diverse housing types, HOK engineers said.

"We're not talking about an isolated resort enclave here, but a mixed-use area, with light industry and commercial activity - a true community," Crawford said.

Gollehon said he's making every effort to be a good neighbor, and to be sensitive to the community's needs.

"I've fallen in love with this place," he said. "It's a beautiful community, and we want to help it become even better."

"This can be one of the finest projects in the U.S.," Gollehon continued. "We need financing, backing and support. If we can't get support from the power sources in Arkansas, this project is not going to happen."

The developer emphasized some positive aspects of the situation.

"We know, because we've done the market research, that Arkansas is a growth market," he said.

Gollehon said people from all over the country would be eager to pay $180,000 for a 2,500-square-foot house on a 3-acre lot in a beautiful place. In many housing markets, he said, the lot alone would cost that much.

Gollehon said success with that phase of development would attract more investors.
However, he made it clear he needs help now.

"I need a lot of help," Gollehon said. "We have some plans, and we need some help. There's never been a developer in the history of this planet who could develop a project this size out of his hip pocket."

"That's what we've been trying to do so far, because nobody seems to believe in this area."

"There's plenty of money to come here, but they're only going to come if they see a cohesive unit here, and support from local banks."

Gollehon appealed to the political and financial figures in the room to share his vision.
"If we can't all pull together, this will continue to be a place about which we'll say 'Gee, that could have happened,'" he said.

 
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