A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHENAL VALLEY
Beginning in the early 1950s, Charles Murphy, Jr., the leading founder of Murphy Oil Corporation, began assembling multiple parcels of west Pulaski County timberland. The purpose of assembling these rural acres was to form significant tracts of commercial forests in central Arkansas. Forests for planting, growing, nurturing and harvesting timber. The company, called at the time Deltic Farm and Timber (then a division of Murphy Oil Corporation), was in the timber business. It owned and managed thousands of acres of productive woodlands. It was in the business of acquiring more land to increase the value of the company and the volume of raw materials for the company’s wood-based manufacturing operations.
Those strategic acquisitions resulted in Deltic-owned land in west Pulaski County totaling 31,000 acres. Among this expanse of valuable timber was 7,000 acres that conformed naturally to a contiguous area of flatter lands and rolling hills nestled below Shinall Mountain.
As Little Rock grew, multiple developments moved the capital city’s footprint West. These developments included Foxcroft, Leawood Heights, Breckenridge, Colony West, Robinwood, River Ridge and Walton Heights. And an ambitiously widespread project known as Pleasant Valley.
The new residential brands were the result of developers’ individual plans, including roads, gutters, water, sewer and power lines all in support of growing neighborhoods. Pleasant Valley and its master-plan amenities of country club golf, neighborhood churches and schools, public parks and multiple greenbelts grew quickly to the west until it could grow no more. Its farthest western boundary was now the eastern most boundary of Deltic property. Where Pebble Beach Drive ended, what would soon become Chenal Valley began.
“The vision and the driving force behind the idea of a planned community development were Chip’s,” said Madison Murphy about his brother. Chip Murphy’s ideas, sketches, and determination to realize a whole new use for timberland is where Chenal Valley was born. “It’s the concept of highest and best use for the land under our stewardship, adding value to the land and making it greater than the sum of its various parts,” Madison Murphy explained.
For the vision to become a reality, hurdles were cleared from the El Dorado boardroom to the Little Rock City Board to the State Capitol. Now the real work could begin.
Chenal Ridge was first. Located at the end of Pebble Beach Drive, Chenal Ridge introduced Deltic to residential planning, lot sales, property owners associations, and the new world of community development. And of selling property rather than buying it.
The bigger idea, of course, was Chenal Valley. And to make it a cohesive community, a connecting, multi-lane thruway was taken from Chip Murphy’s initial sketches and woven into the master plan. What the team of planners found was that at the end of I-630, which connected to Financial Centre Parkway, the Federal government had planned to one day complete an extension of the Wilbur Mills Freeway all the way to Highway 10. But the federal government was slow to move, and the Chenal developers were ready to go. Eventually the roadway was dropped from the Federal Interstate Highway plan and permission was granted to construct it as Chenal Parkway.
To make this major construction project feasible, an improvement district was formed for the express purpose of constructing the parkway. In June 1986 a bond issue was floated to fund the construction. The 30-year issue sold in one day and was retired in roughly 10 years. Chenal Valley had its primary artery, from which individual neighborhoods and commercial properties would be connected.
Within two months, in August 1986, the Chenal Valley property was annexed into the Little Rock city limits. And in March 1987, the zoning ordinances for Chenal Valley’s master plan were adopted.
From 1996-2000, the first major commercial project, the GMAC building, would be constructed, as Chenal Country Club added the St. Andrews Ballroom and banquet facility. Rahling Road would then be connected with Taylor Loop and Highway 10, Chenal Valley Drive would be extended, and a second golf course, Bear Den, would be added to accommodate the growing membership of one of the south’s finest country clubs.
The thousands of residents of Chenal Valley and its companion equestrian-themed development, Chenal Downs, have long recognized what was at one time only a sketch. Today, others have recognized the ever-increasing potential of those initial drawings, as envisioned commercial developments became reality, including The Promenade at Chenal, a lifestyle retail experience second to none, and CHI St. Vincent’s new west campus, a significant investment bringing the initial presence of medical service facilities to Chenal Valley.
Deltic Timber Corporation, a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, merged with the Potlatch Corporation in 2018. Now known as PotlatchDeltic Corporation, the company specializes in maximizing the value of its landholdings. The company’s real estate division, Chenal Properties, Inc., and its flagship development, Chenal Valley, continue to work with commercial clients, builders and prospective homeowners to make their dreams come true.
The core of the community would be the new Chenal Country Club and its first phase, 18-hole championship golf course. The decision was to begin major construction around the golf course, which was located in the middle of company property. Selling residential lots along and adjacent to the course would allow the company to begin recouping its initial capital investment. Chenal Circle would be created and completed by 1989, and the community was well underway.
A number of benchmarks followed these core amenities: Chenal Parkway was completed in April 1990, with Chenal Country Club and the Founders Course opened in August of that year. Over the next decade, block after block of beautifully designed, and expertly built, residences grew to what now totals 38 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own identity, features, and benefits. Also during this 10-year period, 700 additional acres were annexed into Chenal Valley, increasing the development’s west Little Rock footprint.
An important part of bringing this new landscape together was the formation of the Chenal Valley Property Owners Association, designed to serve both residential and commercial properties. The Chenal Valley POA is housed in the PotlatchDeltic office, located near the Country Club, and keeps a watchful eye over all properties to ensure a continued level of quality enjoyed by all property owners.
CONTACT CHENAL VALLEY POA
Chenal Valley Property Owners' Association
Greg Stewart, Board Member/Treasurer
7 Chenal Club Boulevard
Little Rock, AR 72223