New First National Bank NWA branch will cater to the Bentonville Arts District

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,001 views 

Rendering of the planned branch office of First National Bank NWA to be built in downtown Bentonville’s Arts District.

The newest branch of First National Bank NWA will be built in downtown Bentonville’s Arts District. Regional bank president Rob Husong told Talk Business & Politics that bank officials have spent roughly a year planning this branch after the 1.2 acre site was purchased in June 2014.

Sam T. Sicard, president and CEO of Fort Smith-based First Bank Corp., said last year the branch would not look like a typical branch because the bank would step out of its traditional design to better reflect the arts which have become a major focus in downtown Bentonville.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to offer the Bentonville community a full service bank location in downtown Bentonville with a unique design and with plans to complement the arts district. First National Bank of NWA is committed to supporting the Bentonville community and being a true long-term community partner,” Sicard said Wednesday (Feb. 17) in a statement.

Bank officials plan to host the official groundbreaking at 3 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 23) at 402 SW A. Street in downtown Bentonville. While Husong would not disclose the cost of the 8,700 square-foot facility, he did say the bank is making an effort to help the building blend into the surroundings and add to arts vibe that downtown planners are trying to create.

“This is not a cookie-cutter branch. It’s upscale and because it will sit at the corner of the Arts District our designs inside and out will be reflective of that,” he said.

To start the two-story building is mostly glass and will feature six large picture windows measuring 14 feet by 12 feet wide that face S.W. A. Street. Husong said the bank has hired an independent art director, Zeek Taylor, who will be responsible for assembling the art pieces displayed in the large windows.

“Think of New York department store windows, these will be much the same. Our art director will dress the windows with various art selections from the region, national and world and change these window displays about every five to six weeks,” he said.

Taylor is a widely known local artist who received the Arkansas Arts Council Governor’s Art Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in Eureka Springs and his art has displayed numerous times at the Arkansas Arts Council as well as the Delta Exhibition and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

Husong said the bank wants to feature local art when possible to mix in with works from museums and art schools. With six different windows, Husong said there will lots of opportunity for all kinds of art to be shown overtime.

Because the building is mostly glass, it will be illuminated at night to emit a glow. He said the arts influence goes well beyond the exterior facade. Inside the bank furnishings will also be non-traditional.

“We reached out to several of our customers who make furniture and we are giving them a budget to design unique office furniture for a number of the interior offices. We also have built in a fairly large meeting space on the second floor that vendors and community members can access,” Husong said.

The meeting space can hold 50 to 100 standing and includes an outdoor terrace atop the bank’s drive-thru lanes located on the side of the building.

“It is our hope that we can open up this space for artists from time to to time who need a place to display their work and hold receptions,” he said. “We also will have some lease space available on the second floor.”

The bank design also features showers for employees who want to hop on the Razorback Greenway which runs adjacent the property. There will also be a water and air station for bikers who frequent the area.

Peddler’s Pub, Bike Rack Brewery and Downtown Bentonville Inc., offices are located next door to the new building site and the Thrive Urban living complex is directly across the street.

Husong said building will take about up to nine months to construct and the bank hopes to move in before the end of the year. Because this is a new location, Husong said the bank will be add between 6 and 8 new employees to its payroll this year.