Big plans set for downtown Bentonville Arts District and Markets District (Updated)

by The City Wire staff ( 185 views 

It’s been less than three months since the city of Bentonville unveiled an ambitious project involving the redevelopment of an 18-acre southeast extension to downtown. The plan called for two distinct areas dubbed the Arts District and the Market District  which are connected by two main thoroughfares  — Southwest A Street and Main Street.

Community and economic development director Troy Galloway said private investment has begun to flow into both districts.

“There is already a great deal of buzz around these two experience districts. ERC Construction out of Fort Smith announced plans to build a 60 unit multifamily project with mixed used space as well. That project will be located at the corner of Southwest A and Southwest 4th Streets. They plan to break ground in the next 30 to 45 days, so we will soon be seeing construction in this new Arts District,” Galloway said, during his comments at the Business Matters breakfast in Bentonville on Friday morning (Feb 21).

Business Matters is a new Bentonville-Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce event that provides a look at development and growth projects each quarter.

The city approved the large scale development in November and rezoned for higher residential density levels. The project includes 44,000 square feet of mixed-use development consisting of 62 residential units and 1,760 square feet of flex space. The ERC project name is “Thrive.”

“We worked with ERC for sometime to find them the right location and we are very excited about this project as it will provide more housing for these developing districts. The businesses that locate there will need the foot traffic. The ERC project will change the entire face of the new Arts District,” Galloway said.

Rob Coleman, an owner and vice president of ERC Properties, said the company was not yet ready to discuss project costs. He did say the company “is excited to be rolling out this new urban look.”

Across the street from the ERC development in the old lumber yard area is planned a new pizza restaurant and office space that Downtown Bentonville  Inc. (DBI) is relocating to in the next few months.

“This is a significant amount of activity in this immediate area and a great extension to downtown,” Galloway said. “The city is also planning to redo Main Street from the Square all the way to Highway 102, that includes brand new curb and guttering, landscaping and storm water drainage control. This street work will begin in next 90 days,” Galloway said.

The city street project will serve as a gateway to the expanded downtown area and as one of the connectors between the new experience districts. Galloway said once the Main Street improvements are completed, the same work will begin on Southwest A, the other major connector between the Square and the new redeveloped areas.

The Market District encompasses the old Tyson Foods plant, the Kraft cheese facility and the Icehouse. Galloway said there are several investors now working in the area. The Tyson building is being stabilized with some of the exterior manufacturing equipment being removed. It is also being painted with the intent that the interior can be redeveloped into a market area, perhaps overflow from Farmer’s Market as well as other culinary, wholesale and retail food venues.

The Icehouse is being refurbished into office space and the large kitchen in that facility will used for catering opportunities. Galloway said the Kraft plant is being looked at by several investors for redevelopment.

The biggest project announced so far is the ERC development.

“We worked with ERC for sometime to find them the right location and we are very excited about this project as it will provide more housing for these developing districts. The businesses that locate there will need the foot traffic. The ERC project will change the entire face of the new Arts District,” Galloway said.

David Deggs, the executive director of Downtown Bentonville, said downtown is more than just the square. In Bentonville it encompasses 1,790 acres.

“We are at the forefront of what is going on in the new Arts District. We are moving our office to 401 Southwest A. Street into the old Grant building. It is going to become what is called the Hub. It’s adjacent the trail system for the Razorback Greenway. Our office, Bike Bentonville, Bike Rack Brewery and Peddler's Pub, a new pub and woodfire pizzeria, will be located in the Hub,” he said.

The new ERC housing project will be located across the street from the Hub, which Deggs says will bring an added population that can help to revive this neighborhood as an extension of downtown square.

He said First Friday events brought more than 42,000 people out to the Bentonville square last year and DBI has added several new downtown programing events in 2014. DBI also is looking forward to this year’s Farmer’s Market as they had 70 vendors in 2013.

“It’s a great way to support our local farmers and this year we are adding some healthy cooking demonstrations and other unique features,” Deggs said.

Also on tap for the city of Bentonville is a brand new $16 million recreation center. The 80,000 square foot complex will include two pools, a zero-depth entry recreation pool for all ages and a competitive swimming pool that will be used by Bentonville schools, who contributed $1 million to the overall project for sharing rights.

David Wright, director of parks and recreation, said the center will be located near Highways 12 and the 112 in the southwestern part of the city. Construction has begun and is expected to take 18 months.

“We are excited about this project, it’s the grand-daddy of them all as far as parks and recreation goes. This zero-depth entry pool is like a playground in the water. There is a large playground in the middle. There is a slide that actually takes you outside the building and back into again for the landing. There is an area for laps and a river float section,” Wright said.

He told the group that during certain hours the leisure pool would be used for senior programing like water resistance strength classes or yoga. The center also features a designated area for senior citizens as well as a basketball court, volleyball court and fitness center.

The recreation center is slated to open in early 2015 and Galloway said there will be use fees charged. Those rates have not yet been set. While out-of-city residents are welcome, they will likely pay a slightly higher rate for the amenities, he said.