Wrap it Up – A look back at 2007 in Northwest Arkansas

By Maylon T. Rice and Susan Porter

The top story of 2007 was one, that even by the best standards, is just a little harder than usual to put a finger on: The economy.

Some folks say it is good. Others, of course, disagree. The signs of economic change are everywhere.

It is a creeping sense that the previous 365 days were whittled away one at a time while the economic conditions were back-and-forth and back-and-forth one percentage point and by one or two, or five to 10 cents per gallon.

A year ago, area newspapers would go days with only an occasional foreclosure notice in the classified sections. Now it’s not unusual to see multiple pages. The record in 2007 was a full eight pages.

The default rate on home mortgages soared along with the rest of the nation and in Northwest Arkansas commercial property also took a hard hit in 2007 sending several developers into bankruptcy.

Many new commercial and residential spaces, including the ballyhooed downtown condos, have yet to see their first tenant for 365 days-plus, leaving developers, contractors and subs holding the bag.

But, Fayetteville’s economy was strong to the point that cities, both in and out of state, were somewhat jealous. The city budget was more than that of some Arkansas towns that are almost twice the size of Fayetteville, but no more.

Declining sales tax revenues in 2007 sparked debates and a budget trimming process that sought to eliminate a $2.3 million dollar shortfall in the city coffers.

One bit of good news, however. The State Supreme Court did clear the Fayetteville version of the Tax Increment Financing via the legal test of diverting tax dollars for future growth project.

On the heels of this was the reality that the downtown TIF project that is wrapped around a yet-to-be constructed hotel didn’t get off the ground and went into the penalty phase, which required the developers to pay the city a fine for each month the project ran past the promised opening date. At least two fines were paid to the city in late 2007.

But there was good news in 2007.

During 2007, even those who gripe and grouse about Dickson Street had their day. Notably Underwood’s Fine Jewelry celebrated its 50th year in business. The unofficial “Mayor of Dickson Street,” pharmacist Carl Collier and Collier Drug Stores, completed year number 90 in business. And toss in an extended anniversary of drink and music for George’s Majestic Lounge, the Dickson Street entertainment anchor, which celebrated birthday number 80.

Area hospitals and clinics grew quietly in 2007. Several doctors changed allegiances with different groups, but overall there were few major changes. There is a move afoot to bring young physicians and interns to NWA via the UA Medical Sciences taking over part of the old Washington Regional Medical Center on North College. “Downstaters” promise a battle. A major influx of cash needs to be in place for this move to happen in 2008.

In the religious sector, after the Trinity Fellowship on Rolling Hills Drive suffered a devastating fire in late 2006, the church broke ground for a new structure in 2007. And after much controversy over locating Temple Shalom in a residential neighborhood, the congregation broke ground on a new building in another location in 2007.

The debate began in 2007 and will continue in 2008 over how many and where any new high schools should be located.

One of the most overlooked events of 2007 was the official opening of the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks. The first seven acres of the 90-acre plot of land on Fayetteville’s northeast side is now receiving visitors.

The Walton Arts Center enjoyed a good year in 2007, but the management announced that the facility is too small. City administrators and elected officials vowed to do what it takes to keep the WAC in Fayetteville. A parking garage and more space was a topic of conversation.

The world class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in downtown Bentonville announced that it had pushed its opening date a year, to 2010, because of unexpected construction issues caused by the cavernous Ozark terrain. Museum founder Alice Walton, Sam Walton’s only daughter, continues to purchase art for the museum, which has proven to be a chore. The purchase and fight for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection has gained national attention.

Fayetteville lost a landmark in 2007, when the University of Arkansas dozed the Edward Durell Stone designed Carlson Terrace student housing complex. The internationally revered architect and a Fayetteville native also designed the Museum of Modern Art and the Kennedy Center.

A staple of the Fayetteville concert scene, the Gulley Park Summer Concert Series, played to packed audiences, resplendent with dogs and toddling kids. The 2008 tenor for these gigs, however, may be curtailed due to city budget cuts.

Crime and punishment
There was talk that the new Washington County Jail was out of room, but plans to expand the jail in tandem with a tax increase were put on hold by County Judge Jerry Hunton. Hunton’s plans to move or expand the current court space didn’t set well with the county’s barristers and elected judicial officers. An expert has been called in and there are plans to revisit the issue in 2008.

A pair of Fayetteville police officers, Phillip Crosby and Christopher Denton, were awarded all sorts of honorary citations and awards for saving a man from a burning car in 2007.

A major shock in the community came when a routine traffic stop revealed that two child criminals, Justin Trammell (1999 crossbow death of his father in Benton County) and Mitchell Johnson (1998 Jonesboro school shooter) were pals and living in a Fayetteville apartment complex.

The high-profile murder of Sandra Stokes in Goshen had international implications when the alleged suspect was finally tracked down and apprehended in Honduras.

Sadly in 2007, there were two incidents of law enforcement officers being involved shootings in our area. On Feb. 9, Washington County deputies shot and killed a man in Prairie Grove. The officers were cleared of any wrong doing. On Oct. 30 Fayetteville police officers shot and killed 25 year-old Taylor Breeden. Officers were cleared in this shooting, too.

In 2007, Arkansas State Trooper Larry Norman was sentenced to 90 days in jail for shooting and killing Erin Hamley in 2006. Norman mistook the young disabled man for a fugitive.

The FPD had some shame come to their midst when former detective Jeremy Grammer was arrested by the FBI to face federal changes of alleged child pornography.

Sports. Was there a bigger story in 2007? Was there a bigger saga, an almost never-ending soap opera? Many will doubt it.

Longtime coach and athletic director J. Frank Broyles resigned at the last tick of the clock in 2007 on Dec. 31. Celebrating 50 years on campus, the 2007 grid campaign was to be an ongoing celebration.

The Hogs finished 8-4 and lost the New Year’s Day Cotton Bowl in Dallas to the University of Missouri, oddly enough, the school the Razorbacks wooed Broyles away from back in 1956.

Stan Heath, who replaced UA basketball legend Nolan Richardson, again lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, was fired. A replacement for Heath, the Creighton University coach whose name will long be remembered by Hog fans, Dana Altman, took the job one day and the very next day, Chancellor John White allowed him to resign. Finally a basketball coach was found in John Pelphrey from South Alabama. He’s made some bold moves toward discipline and pressing defense.

Houston Nutt…where does one begin? In his 10th year he managed to lose the state’s top QB ever when Mitch Mustan transferred to Southern Cal. Nutt allowed Gus Malzon to go to Tulsa with his no-huddle offense. There were some Freedom Of Information releases of phone numbers that disturbed fans. At least one Razorbacker took the matter to court. Text messages were never revealed, but who got the late night messages was revealed.

On the gridiron Arkansas looked “up” one week and “down” the next. After an 0-3 SEC start, Arkansas bucked up and won at Ole Miss, over South Carolina and whipped Mississippi State in Little Rock. Nutt’s exit was made even harder to take as the Hogs took down No. 1 ranked LSU in Baton Rouge. But the golden handcuffs were released.

Jeff Long, the guy hired away from Pitt University to follow Broyles as UA Athletic Director, had a four-month learning curve and had to quickly hire a head football coach before he even got the new convoluted title of Assistant Chancellor for Athletics and a corner office.

Bev Lewis, the longtime Women’s Athletic Director, was also kicked upstairs, after Chancellor White combined men’s and women’s sports management at the UA.

Late, but good Hog news, Dave Petrino, of the Atlanta Falcons, was lured away for the Head Hog job with three games left on the NFL books. There was a lot of heat nationally, but locally Hog fans cheered.

John McDonnell’s staff and their brush with the NCAA had two national titles jerked from the 42 that the running Razorbacks had claimed. The investigation and subsequent firing of a staffer had the Hogs 0-3 in cross county, outdoor and indoor track for the first time in a long time.

Dave VanHorn’s baseball Razorbacks couldn’t seem to get past the first round of the NCAA tourney in 2007.

On the women’s side, after four disappointing years and a late season 0-11 slide, UA basketball coach Susie Gardner turned in her resignation. Former Hog assistant Tom Collen, who was at Louisville, was hired.

In high school sports, Fayetteville High won it’s first-ever state 7-A football title. The FHS Band continued its winning ways, too, and was invited back to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

New and gone
New restaurants and clubs popped up in 2007. Here are some of them.
Urban Table in the Old Post Office building on the Fayetteville Square, Little Bread Company, Mariachi, Whole Hog Cafe, Mama Dean’s, Taponazos, Smilin’ Jack’s Fresh Foods, Lou Lou’s Fish Shack, Soul, Wet Pig BBQ, Penguin Ed’s on Wedington, Ye Old King Pizza, Tim’s Pizza in Tontitown, Larry’s Pizza near the new Razorback Malco 12, The Red Palace, the new location of Hunan Manor on Wedington, and the relocated Shogun with a great Skybar.

A weird tri-fecta of change took place when Tony’s C’s Off Dickson opened, closed and was replaced by College Inn, which closed and was replaced by Jerzee’s Sports Bar, which as Jan. 1 is still open. It has been that kind of year.

R.I.P. those that are now long gone. Those exiting the restaurant and bar scene in 2007 as the strange economic times continue: Sassafras, Chloe, Arsaga’s on Block Street, Cafe Santa Fe downtown (long gone but still missed), Acropolis, O’Charley’s, Smokey Bones, Fuddrucker’s, Chubby’s Coney’s, Lone Star Steakhouse, Fat Tony’s Coneys, Blu Lounge and 414.

And after their “one second of fame” when Hillary Clinton visited for a campaign stop in 2007, Gloria Jean’s at the old train depot on Dickson Street shuttered its door.
Passing from this life in 2007

All who pass from this life make their mark on the year for each of us individually. Some leave their mark on the overall community. In 2007 some of those are:
Helen Robson Walton
The First Lady of Wal-Mart, wife of Wal-Mart founder, the late Sam Walton. Many of those in NWA who retire with million dollar nest eggs, should thank Miss Helen. It was at her insistence that Sam and other managers in the early days share the profits with the little people.

Steve, Sharon, Paul and Maureen Hoover
Fayetteville is still mourning the loss of an entire family. The Hoovers were tragically killed in an automobile crash while vacationing in Mexico. Each of these four individuals championed various causes and added to the culture of our community.

John Lewis
A shocking loss to the community occurred in this summer when Bank of Fayetteville founder, John Lewis, died while on a Missouri golfing weekend. After starting a bank from scratch on the Fayetteville Square, over the last two decades, Lewis contributed to many civic, cultural and economic causes. Many observers called him, and rightly so, Mr. Fayetteville.

Clay Edwards
Clay Edwards, a nationally recognized fundraiser, who worked tirelessly on the University of Arkansas’s campaign for $1 billion died unexpectedly in 2007. He and his wife Sandy were a one-two punch in that successful UA campaign.

Richard (Dick) Kellogg
The community also lost former UA professor in Dick Kellogg, a noted architecture professor who was also quite an artist.

Greg Ogden
Civic leader and success young businessman, Greg Ogden fell to a lengthy illness. He championed civic causes until his death and his contributions to
Fayetteville High and the Fayetteville education community continue.

Bill Bassett
Fayetteville lost a giant in the legal community this year with the death of Bill Bassett. While quietly growing some of the largest law firms in the area, Bassett had a presence of fair play, hard work and ethics that can be matched by few.

Lloyd Peterson
The poultry industry lost one of its early pioneers this past year, Decatur native, Lloyd Peterson, who was one of the Arkansans who lead the way in growing chickens for the worldwide market.

Louis Bryant Jr.
Long time delivery man for Collier Drug Store on Dickson Street, Bryant worked for Collier’s for 60 years. He was one of the city’s characters, never forgetting a face and smiling with each delivery.

Larry Shank
Longtime UA baseball announcer Shank was a gem at boosting the
Razorback baseball team and college baseball in general.

Kenneth McKee
The former Washington County Sheriff, who had a long and decorated career in the Arkansas State Police, was known for his no-nonsense style of management, but also had a soft side for the workingman. An undercover drug agent for many years, McKee was a friend of Elvis and that’s no joke.

Betty Lighton
Always on the cutting edge of organizing help for those who could not help themselves, Lighton contributed her knowledge and compassion throughout Northwest Arkansas. The community’s mental health care and social health care systems owe a lot to her philanthropy and leadership

Categories: Legacy Archive