story by Kim Souza
Excitement is brewing in downtown Springdale with news that an entity funded by the Walton family — Downtown Springdale LLC — has acquired a major landmark building at 202 E. Emma Ave. The San Jose Manor building was home to Ryan’s Clothing for more than 50 years before the retailer closed in 2013.
Max and Robert Ryan sold their interest in the building for $250,000 in May to Downtown Springdale LLC. Mid-America Management Associates just closed the sale of their majority interest in the property for $970,000, according to county real estate records.
The $1.22 million Walton family investment is a catalyst to help spur more development in downtown Springdale, according to city leaders. The Walton family has not announced plans for the purchased site which runs along Emma Avenue from Spring Street to N. Commercial Street.
Perhaps a mixed used space anchored with a Walmart Neighborhood Market is possible, like the one under construction in downtown Bentonville. City officials said it’s anybody’s guess what the Walton’s have planned at this time.
“When I came down here to Springdale I told the Jones Trust board that I could help the environment in the Jones Center, but we needed to work on improving the surrounding area because downtown Springdale has the greatest potential of all the area downtowns,” said Ed Clifford, CEO of the Jones Center.
For years Clifford, as CEO of the Bentonville Chamber of Commerce, had a front row seat to witness community investment toward downtown revitalization. Support from Wal-Mart, Walton family and a plethora of smaller investors has transformed the Bentonville square and is ow adding two new downtown initiatives — the Market and Arts districts.
“The Walton family investment in Springdale sent a signal to lots of people that this development is really going to happen,” Clifford said.
The interest in downtown Springdale is a long time coming, said Mayor Doug Sprouse, adding that the Razorback Greenway work which runs through the middle of downtown Springdale creates momentum for development. Sprouse said the Walton Family Foundation and their vision for the Razorback Greenway helped breathe new life into downtown Springdale with $10 million in matching funds toward the city’s leg of Greenway.
The city recently purchased two buildings along Mill Street and is tearing them down to make room for Turnbow Plaza, a downtown park that will be located on the banks of Spring Creek along the Razorback Greenway, which is about one block from the site purchased by the Walton family.
“This recent investment from the Walton family, Tyson Foods and the Care Foundation in our downtown legitimizes the revitalization efforts that have started and failed so many times before,” Sprouse said.
Last month the Care Foundation gave the city $493,000 to build Turnbow Plaza and Tyson Foods anted up $100,000 for the building demolition and debris removal. Tyson is also in the process of acquiring the Jeff Brown Building at 317 E. Emma Ave. The meat giant recently announced plans to relocate some of its corporate staff to downtown Springdale into one of its corporate buildings along Emma Avenue, but gave no timeline for that move.
“I can’t say enough about the importance of Tyson’s plan to house some corporate staff downtown. It’s a huge deal because this will mean foot traffic that can help spur more retail and restaurant growth as the trail work is completed over the next year,” Sprouse said.
Clifford stands by his belief that when all is said is done, downtown Springdale will shine brighter than the rest. He said the trailhead at the Jones Center is halfway between Bella Vista and Fayetteville along the Razorback Greenway. The Jones Center will be the parking area and rest room facility for hundreds who will use the Greenway each week.
Clifford and Sprouse agree that having Spring Creek, the railroad and the Jones Center attractions along Emma Avenue in downtown Springdale, will set the city apart.
“We are on our way and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities,” Clifford said.
Springdale City Council will decide on Tuesday (June 10) if they want to approve an $825,051 matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation to build a mountain bike trail in the northern part of the city near J.B. Hunt Park. The total cost of the 2.6 mile mountain bike trail is expected to be $1.65 million. City officials said if built the trail will connect to the Razorback Greenway. If approved, construction will begin immediately in hope of completion by the end of the year.