Downtown trend: Health and wellness experiences

by Jennifer Joyner ( 707 views 

Phat Tire Bike Shop opened in late 2015 along the Razorback Regional Greenway trail in downtown Springdale.

Downtown neighborhoods in Northwest Arkansas have increasingly become centers for businesses and activities related to holistic health and exercise.

Downtown Bentonville, for example, has a number of businesses that focus on well-being, from farm-to-table and organic food offerings, to yoga, to bicycle gear and apparel.

Hazel Hernandez, director of communications for Experience Fayetteville, said, “Fayetteville has a long history of creating a community that is focused on health, wellness and sustainability.

“The lay of the land in Fayetteville promotes health and wellness in itself,” she said. “The startup businesses that line some of the city’s most popular areas — from Dickson Street to the historic downtown square to other areas of Fayetteville — encourage residents and visitors to walk and explore these close-knit areas.”

In downtown Rogers, 33 businesses opened last year, and nine offer products and services focused on health and overall well-being, said Karen Wagaman, vice president of downtown development for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. New businesses include Essential Esthetics, which specializes in holistic skin care and natural alternatives to traditional skin treatments, and The Hive Wellness Group, which offers yoga, massage, a tea bar and lounge, aromatherapy and a holistic health spa with infrared sauna.

Pets’ health and wellness has also made its way into the trend. Woof & Wander opened earlier this year in downtown Rogers. On its website, the company says: “We are your retail solution for all things wild when it comes to nourishing your pet’s mind, body and soul.” Wagaman said the downtown’s proximity to parks and trails makes it attractive to people who are focused on a healthy lifestyle.

In fact, the Razorback Regional Greenway and other bike trails are a recurring theme in conversations regarding downtown development. Mountain biking and road cycling has picked up speed in recent years as a popular pastime throughout Northwest Arkansas. In fact, Bentonville hosted the 2016 world summit for the International Mountain Bicycling Association last fall.

In downtown Springdale, the greenway passes through downtown across Emma Avenue, and a Phat Tire Bike Shop opened there in late 2015. It’s located across from the recently-completed Walter Turnbow Park along Spring Creek.

In addition to health-related businesses, downtown community activities have become increasingly focused on healthy and active lifestyles. The Downtown Springdale Alliance, for example, offers Trailside Yoga during Saturday farmers’ markets. Wagaman pointed to interactive experiences offered by downtown Rogers businesses that cater to mind and body health, including biking and running clubs, cooking and fitness classes and art lessons.

“These same individuals enjoy the services of massage therapists and estheticians, bicycle shops, running and outdoor outfitters and spend their dollars at businesses that support a healthy, active lifestyle,” she said.

Baby boomers and millennials are largely driving both the health and wellness trend and the downtown migration trend. America’s 76 million baby boomers are healthier and wealthier than all previous generations and are more physically active than prior generations, according to Progressive Urban Management Associate’s 2014 Global Trends Report.

Many of them are downsizing households and moving to walkable urban areas downtown. And the U.S.’s 77 million millennials are seeking similar environments because of a social element and walkability, and they are also more focused than previous generations on, for example, natural foods and products, according to the report.

Chung Tan, director of economic development at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, said the two generations have another thing in common: seeking experiences.

“Experience-based businesses are emerging across the country as millennials’ and the retirees’ demand for them increases. Fayetteville, Rogers and the rest of Northwest Arkansas are catching the wave, too.”

She also tied the trend to those with more disposable income.

Wagaman said downtowns intrinsically encourage physical activity, and an uptick in residential properties available in downtown Rogers is feeding the commercial development.

“Traditional downtowns offer pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods that blend residences, offices, retail and restaurant spaces that readily appeal to people who want to walk and bike to necessary goods and services,” she said. “We are seeing a growing number of residences being built in downtown, adding to the opportunities to enjoy the downtown culture, and it is likely the people moving in will be drawn to the healthy lifestyle offered by a walkable, bikeable, dog-friendly community.”

Farmers’ markets are a staple in downtown neighborhoods throughout Northwest Arkansas, promoting healthy eating, walking and natural products and services advertised and sold at the markets. Hernandez said the region’s topography is one reason a focus on outdoor activity makes sense.

“The entire region of the Ozark Mountains, lakes, trails, etc., encourages an active lifestyle outdoors,” she said. “Fayetteville has always worked to draw attention to its natural assets as a way of promoting health and wellness, but the city is going beyond the appeal of its environment. It is taking a comprehensive approach to wellness by expanding its offerings for good nutrition, physical fitness, mental or emotional health (arts), and the businesses that support all of those aspects.”