Placemakers Summit, bootcamp bring downtown experts to Northwest Arkansas

by Rose Ann Pearce ([email protected]) 208 views 

Northwest Arkansas will in late April host the first Placemaker Summit and Small Developer Bootcamp, gathering urban planners, developers, civic organizations and municipal leaders from across Arkansas, Kansas. Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

The event, set for April 22-24 in downtown Bentonville, will explore place-based strategies that strengthen a community, the economy and a unique sense of place vital to staying competitive in the 21st Century.

Called the Placemakers Summit and Bootcamp, the event will bring together speakers, interactive panel discussions, immersive tours, small discussion groups, informative workshops and one-on-one opportunities with national leaders in the field, according to Daniel Hintz, chief experience architect of the Velocity Group and an event producer.

“Cities across middle America recognize the importance of their downtowns and urban cores,” Hintz said. “The summit and bootcamp bring together a powerful network of local, regional and national experts to identify the challenges to cultivating a unique sense of place by exploring neighborhood based solutions that create value for both citizens and visitors.”

Five cities in Northwest Arkansas, including Bentonville, have adopted downtown master plans in recent years. In addition to learning from the urban planning consultants who helped develop the plans, the event opens the opportunity to learn from municipal colleagues about successes and challenges in developing and implementing master plans through several interactive panels and plenary sessions, Hintz said.

The national planning firms which developed the downtown plans for Siloam Springs, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale will have reps at the summit, Hintz said.

“While our downtowns in the region are in various stages of revitalization,” said Mike Harvey, chief operating officer of the Northwest Arkansas Council, “this event highlights the power of coordinated, regional placemaking work and provides an opportunity to share our experiences while learning from other communities across the state and mid-South.”

The Placemaker Summit will focus on creating and implementing the big plans. The Small Developer Bootcamp will provide hands-on experience for incremental private sector development necessary to fuel those plans. The bootcamp is a project of the Incremental Development Alliance (IDA), a national nonprofit organization focused on training, coaching and connecting people to create neighborhood scale, small development projects in their communities.

“The work completed by the municipalities in Northwest Arkansas signaling their welcome to human scaled, walkable neighborhoods is fantastic. However, the hard work of implementation now begins,” said Jim Kumon, IDA’s executive director. “We hope the bootcamp will engage small business owners, design and real estate professionals, builders, contractors and neighborhood advocates to augment their existing skills to develop the lots and buildings they care about. No one is coming from the outside to do this work for you, it has to be locally grown.”

The Placemaker Summit will be held at the Meteor Theatre, 128 W. Central Ave., and the Small Development Bootcamp will take place at Tavola Trattoria, 108 SE A St. Both locations are in downtown Bentonville. The venues are examples of incremental downtown revitalization projects and offer context to the weekend. The Meteor Theater was a historic movie theater and is being updated as an event and live music venue. The Tavola building was an urban infill project built by a local developer.

The summit’s list of national and regional placemaking experts includes Mike Lydon, a principal of The Street Plans Collaborative of New York; Victor Dover, co-founder of Dover, Kohl & Partners Town Planning in Coral Gables, Fla.; John Anderson, principal at Anderson|Kim Architecture + Urban Design in Albuquerque; urban developer Monte Anderson, president of Options Real Estate in Dallas; Timothy Breihan, principal of H3 Studio Inc. in St. Louis; John Hoal, founding principal of H3 Studio Inc.; urban designer and neighborhood advocate Jim Kumon; Tommy Pacello, president of the Medical District Collaborative in Memphis; and Scott Polikov, president of Gateway Planning in Dallas.

“While many of the speakers helped develop the downtown master plans found throughout Northwest Arkansas, (the) experts have been collectively involved in a vast portfolio of national and international projects,” Hintz said.

The event is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, with additional partners including the Arkansas Municipal League, Main Street Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Council, the Arkansas Times, and Block, Street, and Building Magazine. The event is produced by the Velocity Group and the Incremental Development Alliance.