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FORT SMITH MEDICAL COLLEGE ANNOUNCES EXPANSION

The president and CEO of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) announced Tuesday the plans for a second college — a $15 million, 60,000-square-feet College of Health Sciences expected to be ready for classes in 2020.

The Arkansas College of Health Sciences will be directly behind the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM), the first installment of Fort Smith’s new medical school at Chaffee Crossing that is set to open its doors to an inaugural class of 150 students July 31.

The new building will be home to multiple disciplines, including a master of nursing program, a physician assistant program and a post-baccalaureate master’s program, President and CEO Kyle Parker said at a news conference Tuesday.

Parker would not yet specify what therapeutic doctoral degrees it may offer.

The $15 million came as an anonymous donation from a family who did not want the building named after them, Parker said.

Parker anticipates that ACHE will break ground on the new building in the spring, he said.

The new college is not the only new development coming soon — Parker also announced that ACHE will also develop a 228-acre neighborhood with the help of Fort Smith, Barling and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA). A planned zoning district (PZD) has been approved.

The neighborhood is planned to have 30 categories of retail such as grocery stores, apparel stores and home furnishings, and 10 restaurants — altogether expected to generate $25.9 million in taxable sales.

Within the next 10-15 years, 1,900 housing units are planned for the neighborhood including 1,020 single-family detached homes, 625 multi-family homes for rent, 215 single-family attached homes and 125 multi-family homes for sale, Parker said.

Students can also expect 80 more units at The Residents, the school’s student housing development.

The apartments are technologically integrated with the school, Parker said. That means that if a student is sick and needs to stay home, he or she can watch class from home.

The school is also picking up the tab for all utilities, including cable, for the apartments, he said.

The 80 units are comprised of both one- and two-bedroom apartments, or 96 beds total. The $6 million new construction project represents Phase II of The Residents. Phase I is complete and includes 84 units (122 beds), a fitness center, a dog park, a swimming pool and study rooms.

The Research Suite for basic, educational and clinical research inside ARCOM is also ready for use, Parker said. The school has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) and Arkansas Technical University to allow researchers from those universities to use the suite.

“We truly want to help the state of Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma — this region of the country — because we live in the most medically under-served area in the United States ... UA Fort Smith didn’t have the research facilities that they needed to have. Arkansas Tech University did not have the research facilities that they needed to have,” Parker said.

The research space has 3,000 square-feet complete and 4,000 more square-feet to expand.

The FCRA oversees development at Chaffee Crossing and gave ACHE 200 acres of land in its beginning.

“When our board made that commitment, I knew it was going to happen,” FCRA Executive Director Ivy Owen said.

For Owen, who said he was overwhelmed with pride and joy to hear the expansion announcement, it is hard to prioritize what the best part is of the new developments.

The students who stay in the area when they graduate will undoubtedly generate money into the area, the commercial and support services planned will generate sales tax, more people will move to the area and a medically under-served area will have more medical professionals, he said.