Shopping center looks for turnaround with entertainment district

New owners of Little Rock’s Breckenridge Village shopping center, built about 40 years ago, are planning to resuscitate the property by creating an entertainment-restaurant district featuring local brands with specialty retail outlets as backfill.

That is a reversal of the traditional approach for shopping centers, which have been developed emphasizing a retail-first approach with restaurants and entertainment options as window dressing.

“We really want to create a gathering place for the community,” said Michael Bodnar, an investor based in Nashville who has developed several noted regional restaurant brands as chief executive officer of Fresh Hospitality.

The goal is to create a sidewalk-café environment with the Regal movie theatre complex as a draw for customers.

Bodnar and Little Rock restaurant operator Jim Keet, who also has commercial real estate experience developing projects such as the Bass Pro Shops and the outlet mall at Otter Creek, have been long-time business partners and most recently rolled out a new restaurant concept: Waldo’s Chicken and Beer, which opened recently near McCain Mall in North Little Rock.

Waldo’s also will be featured in the Breckenridge overhaul, which Keet described as a “reimagining of the center.”

Hank Kelley, a Little Rock commercial real estate developer and property manager, and his partner, Bo Riggs, maintained an ownership interest in Breckenridge.

As the shopping center transforms into a restaurant-centric development, Kelley notes the plan is to bring in eateries known more as local brands that may have a regional focus. “We want to build around local, unique flavors,” Kelley said.

For example, Eat My Catfish has several Central Arkansas locations, including one in Breckenridge Village that will remain on site. Flyway Brewery, a microbrewery based in the Argenta area of North Little Rock, will set up a gastropub in Breckenridge. Deluca’s Pizzeria of Hot Springs also is slated to open a restaurant in the development.

Restoration is in the early planning stage, and the new look should be noticeable by the first quarter of next year. The investment team says they will commit upwards of $6 million to rejuvenate Breckenridge Village, Kelley said, noting that the 11,000-square foot center is in a prime location at Interstate 430 and Rodney Parham Road.

That allegiance already has been demonstrated with the Keet operations, which include Jim’s sons Jake and Tommy as partners, already moving its regional headquarters to the Breckenridge site.

“This is a long-term investment to bring Breckenridge to its highest and best use,” Kelley said. “All the buildings that are there today will stay — we’re not going to tear down or remove buildings.”

Along with new signage and spruced up building exteriors, there has been discussion of creating a courtyard with amphitheater-style seating.

“We’ve got a great team that understands the market, understands real estate, understands the restaurant base and how it’s moving, and we can collectively put together a concept that can meet the needs of the community,” Bodnar said. “Our goal is to focus on local brands and bring them into play in Breckenridge and make it a destination food hub for the community.”


The U.S. Small Business Administration in Arkansas is joining local organizations to offer a Google training course to help small business owners promote and expand their operations.

Grow with Google Summer Camp will teach business owners how to find new customers and to tout their firms so they are easy to find and access on the search engine.

Camp begins July 12 at 10 a.m., with the three-part series continuing through the summer and a course the second Tuesday of each month.

Participants will learn how customers find their business online and how to use search techniques to their advantage. Classes also offer tips on improving website visibility and insight into low-cost online advertising strategies.

Support for the camp is provided by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Better Business Bureau of Arkansas. An experienced Google trainer will lead the camp.


St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank Chief Executive Officer Jim Bullard will speak in Little Rock Thursday from noon-1 p.m. to address monetary policy, recent economic trends and his outlook for the U.S. economy.

His speech is timely, following recent Fed action to raise interest rates by 0.75%, with a simultaneous announcement that a similar rate increase could be forthcoming in July as well. Bullard is speaking at the Clinton Presidential Library as part of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Power Up event.

Power Up Little Rock is hosted by the chamber as a quarterly series highlighting important economic development trends, issues and developments in Central Arkansas and the state.

As chief executive of the Fed’s St. Louis region, Bullard participates on the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee, which is the body that votes on interest-rate increases and sets the direction of U.S. monetary policy. He also oversees the Federal Reserve’s 8th District, including the St. Louis headquarters and branches in Little Rock, Louisville and Memphis.

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