A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Arkansas’ Cinema-Anchored BTR Project
With a mix of residential, retail and entertainment, The Aronson is set to be a tribute to cinema history.
A cinema-anchored BTR project is set to come online in Fayetteville, Ark., encompassing a mix of residential, retail and entertainment options for its future residents. Catchlight Entertainment, a partnership between The ITEX Group and Time Warp Enterprises, is building The Aronson around an innovative concept: a permanent drive-in theater.
Named after Max Aronson, an Arkansas-based cinema pioneer known for starring in hundreds of silent movies and the first onscreen cowboy, the community is set to mirror the cinema concept in every corner. The Aronson will have streets named after big movie stars and eight indoor theaters. Set to break ground in the third quarter of this year, the development will consist of 214 units—a mix of multifamily and single-family rental options, ranging from 785 to 1,629 square feet.
The developers expect to welcome the first residents in the second quarter of 2025. Chris Akbari, the CEO of The ITEX Group, along with Time Warp Enterprises’ Dave Anderson—both partners with Catchlight Entertainment—shared with Multi-Housing News a few details about the “blockbuster neighborhood steeped in cinema history,” as they put it.
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What was the inspiration behind The Aronson? And who are you partnering with to bring your vision to reality?
Anderson: The Aronson project was inspired by a shared love of cinema and the connecting power of culture… While we are still considering construction partners, ICON Builders is likely to be involved. ICON has broad experience in commercial, multifamily, and civil construction projects, having completed over $400 million in projects.
Why did you choose this specific location for the project?
Anderson: We chose the location of a former drive-in cinema in Northwest Arkansas due to its central location, favorable economics and a high potential for economic growth. It’s a fast-growing region with a strong and stable economy. The area is also enriched by nearby shopping centers, highly rated public schools and health-care facilities.
How will the permanent drive-in theater be incorporated into the development and what benefits will it bring to the larger Fayetteville community?
Anderson: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema + Drive-In is a crucial aspect of The Aronson development, with streets named after Arkansas cinema legends and a brand identity that reflects the culture of movies. The cinema will be easily accessible by foot, bike or car to both Aronson residents and locals. Because Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas provides 10 times more titles than traditional theaters, a dine-in menu, and a local beer selection, The Aronson will be a unique regional and national destination.
Please share more details about the design of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema + Drive-In.
Akbari: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema + Drive-In will offer 800 luxury recliner seats across eight premium indoor theaters equipped with 4K digital projection, as well as an outdoor drive-in. The largest auditorium will be The Big Show, Alamo Drafthouse’s Premium Large Format theater with Dolby Atmos sound and 70mm projection capabilities. The 38,000-square-foot cinema will feature a scratch-made food menu, local draft beers and craft cocktails, all brought to guests in their seats by stealthy servers trained not to disrupt the movie experience.
Drafthouse is in the name for a reason, and guests can enjoy a cold drink and chat with other movie fans at the cinema’s standalone bar and beer garden. The bar will offer dozens of beers on tap, craft cocktails, and will be set up to host small events, parties and screenings. In addition, guests can relax in the spacious beer garden with a view of the drive-in screen.
What is the unit mix at The Aronson and how will the homes be equipped? What is the design concept of the homes?
Akbari: The Aronson will feature a mix of 214 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units. 151 units will be standalone single-family build-to-rent options, including single, duplex and triplex units, while the remaining 63 units will be spread across three garden-style apartment buildings.
Each single-family unit will have a dedicated garage, porch, yard and home office. All buildings will be constructed in the modern farmhouse style and come in a variety of colors and profiles. Our design-forward aesthetic will merge elements of modern and vintage looks, reflecting the sophisticated tastes of the region, while referencing cinema culture and the area’s history. The color palette features vibrant but moody colors, evoking the mysterious atmosphere often found in theaters.
Besides the cinema, what other amenities will be available at the property?
Anderson: The Aronson will offer a range of market-leading community amenities, including a clubhouse, fitness center, pool and spa, and business center. The pet- and bike-friendly property will also be distinguished by its walking trails, bike paths, green spaces, parks and playgrounds, providing affordable luxury to a wide range of renters in Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas.
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Walkable urban places have earned plenty of buzz in recent years. Please tell us more about the features that tend to residents’ well-being.
Anderson: The Aronson will prioritize the well-being of our residents by providing a walkable neighborhood with access to parks, green spaces and bike paths. Our community is designed to promote healthy lifestyles and foster a sense of community. An eight-screen cinema, drive-in, and new restaurants will all be located within walking distance.
The neighborhood’s walkability encourages social engagement and enhances the quality of life for residents. Additionally, The Aronson is connected to the 36-mile Razorback Greenway trail system, providing even more opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploring the beautiful natural surroundings of Northwest Arkansas.
How is sustainability integrated into the development, and what measures will be taken to reduce the environmental impact of the project?
Anderson: We have integrated a range of measures to reduce our environmental impact, including energy-efficient appliances and lighting systems to reduce energy consumption and costs, solar-ready power systems, and electric vehicle parking. We are also incorporating green spaces throughout the development to improve air quality and provide residents with access to nature.
Additionally, we are dedicated to preserving the area’s wetlands, taking steps to reduce disturbance and implementing best management practices during construction. We believe that sustainability is key to creating a healthy and sustainable living environment for our residents and the broader community. These sustainable measures not only benefit the environment but also reduce costs for both the developer and the residents, making build-to-rent communities more attractive to eco-conscious renters.
Do you have any similar projects planned for other areas in the country?
Anderson: We are exploring a variety of projects across the Sun Belt.