South Cato Springs 230-Acre Development Will Benefit Neurodiverse Adults and Broader Community


Every project matters. Crafton Tull engineers and planners pour their heart into each project they work on, but sometimes, a project tugs a heart string and reminds us that our work is leading to something bigger than the project.

The South Cato Springs development in Fayetteville is one of those projects. This isn’t just another land development; it’s a mixed-use development that promotes inclusion of and will provide opportunities for neurodiverse adults. It’s truly a site for everyone as it is the future site of the SLS Community’s scaled operations, along with a wide variety of educational, commercial, and recreational developments that will welcome the entire community.

Rendering provided by OSD

SLS (Supporting Lifelong Success) Community is a Fayetteville nonprofit that focuses on empowering neurodiverse adults. The group has long had a goal of establishing opportunities for these individuals to be intertwined into the communities around them. The groundbreaking, which was held in June, is a step toward that mission and signaled the beginning of a special project for Crafton Tull’s Luke Jost, P.E., who is the team lead for the initial infrastructure being designed for the site.

“I chose to be a civil engineer after hearing stories of projects around the world that helped marginalized or overlooked people groups succeed,” said Jost, civil project manager team lead in the Fayetteville office. “It’s a special opportunity to be involved with a project that will give neurodiverse adults new opportunities right here in our town. It’s fulfilling to be part of a project that will change lives and better my community."

Looking southwest from the project site toward Kessler Mountain Regional Park

Even though the project was just officially launched in June 2023, Crafton Tull has been a part of this project before it was making headlines. Crafton Tull partnered with SLS Community, Core Architects, and OSD for the initial planning of this project three years ago. The SLS vision is to create a community where neurodiverse adults can live, work, recreate, and interact with the local community. Included in the master plan are residential areas along with spaces for educational institutions, agriculture, recreation, offices, dining, and lodging.  When completed over the next several years, SLS will be an inclusive environment that brings together neurodiverse adults and the broader community.

Crafton Tull Senior Vice President of Business Development and Planning Dave Roberts, ASLA, was involved in the beginning stages of the plan and found it personally rewarding to be a part of this process. 

“Creating environments for neurodiverse residents to contribute to the community not only provides a valuable role for them but benefits their neighbors as well,” Roberts said. “This concept of integrated inclusion should be the new normal in community planning.”

Rendering provided by OSD

As the project evolved, SLS Community and its partners evolved their vision. South Cato Springs Holdings, LLC, is collaborating with the SLS Community to develop the 230 acres along South Cato Springs Road and sitting adjacent to Kessler Park. The “live, work, play” concept will be interwoven into the development for neurodivergent adults but will also affect the entire community and holds the potential to change south Fayetteville entirely.

Thomas Hennelly, P.E., vice president of infrastructure for Crafton Tull, said this development is going to have a monumental impact on the lives of the neurodiverse adult population in Northwest Arkansas.

“This project will provide the kind of life-changing opportunities for people that as engineers, we hope to see in every project we work on,” Hennelly said. “I’m honored to have the opportunity and proud to be a part of this project.”

Looking east from the project site toward I-49

As with any large-scale project, this development won’t be completed overnight. It is estimated that construction at the site could continue for 15 to 20 years as different components are constructed. Another anchor of the project will be a multi-specialty UAMS facility that will focus on neurodiverse adults.

To date, Crafton Tull has provided initial planning services for the SLS Community, surveys, and environmental work. Currently, our team is in the beginning design phases of the roadway and sanitary sewer for the development. OSD (Office of Strategy + Design) provided the overall masterplan for the development and CORE Architects is also collaborating for the design of the project.

Rendering provided by OSD

Crafton Tull President and CEO Matt Crafton said he is proud that Crafton Tull has had the opportunity to work alongside the SLS Community, the City of Fayetteville, and South Cato Springs Holdings to allow for this monumental development.

“We have been so honored to assist with the initial planning and engineering for what will become an incredible place where neurodiverse adults can reach their full potential,” Crafton said. “The mission of SLS Community is truly extraordinary, and we’re excited to help it become a reality.”

As our engineers and other employee-owners watch this development take shape over the coming years, Crafton Tull can rest assured that its mission of bettering the community one project at a time is very evident in this development.