Walton Family Foundation takes on three local quality of life projects

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 192 views 

The Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program of the Walton Family Foundation has singled out three local projects intended to improve public facilities that cater to children, the arts and history preservation.

The new Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program attracted the interest of more than 75 architecture and landscape architecture firms in its inaugural year, according to Luis Gonzales, foundation spokesman.

He said this program promotes the highest level of design in the development of future public buildings and spaces in Benton and Washington counties. The three projects to be supported by the program in 2015 are:
• A new 51,500-square-foot performance arts space for TheatreSquared in Fayetteville;

• A 28,000-square-foot adaptive reuse building for the Rogers Historical Museum in downtown Rogers; and

• A new 35,000-square-foot facility and half-acre playground for the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center in Bentonville.

“The pilot projects selected for 2015 exemplify the diversity and versatility that can be expected from the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region Program director. “From new construction to adaptive reuse projects, particularly within our region’s downtowns, this program will help enhance our sense of place throughout the Northwest Arkansas region.”

Firms from 19 states, the District of Columbia and Canada will be evaluated to be part of the program.

“As one of the nation’s fastest-growing theatre companies, we have stretched the limits of the work we can create and the audience we can serve in our current space,” said Martin Miller, TheatreSquared executive director. “This program will help us use outstanding design concepts to build an intimate, permanent, world-class home for professional theatre in our region.”

“As we gear up efforts to revitalize our downtown, we want to preserve those qualities that make our city special,” said Rogers Mayor Greg Hines. “The Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program will give us access to talented professionals who can blend innovation with preservation of a historic building.”

“When we set out to build a new building, we wanted to increase the level of access to quality childcare and education programming throughout Northwest Arkansas,” said Michelle Barnes, Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center executive director. “Now, we will also be proud members of a vibrant design corridor anchored by our future neighbors – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Scott Family Amazeum.”

Minkel said the new Walton Family Foundation program in Northwest Arkansas was inspired by a similar enterprise in Columbus, Ind., by the Cummins Foundation.

The Walton Family Foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program will provide financial support to entities such as school districts; county, state or local municipalities; and nonprofit organizations that intend to develop space for public purposes. Funds will be earmarked for all phases of design work.

While the program is open to professionals at local, national and international levels, it is intended to foster regional design excellence and potential cooperation between in-state and out-of-state firms. A local approach will also be used when considering sourcing of materials for the proposed designs in an effort to maintain sustainable development practices.

The program is expected to support up to three projects each year.