The U.S. Marshals Museum received $1 million from Northwest Arkansas-based real estate investor Laurice Hachem, the museum’s foundation announced Thursday (April 4). Hachem is also a member of the foundation board.
Hachem, president of Hachem Investments, began her real estate investment and development business with her late husband Sam Hachem more than 35 years ago in Southern California, moving to Tampa in 1988, then to Montreal from 2001-2007. Once a semi-celebrity in Florida as a successful real estate investor and philanthropist, Hachem moved to Northwest Arkansas in the summer of 2017, a little more than a year following the death of her husband.
“I decided to move to the area in 2017 after having family members research NWA,” Hachem said. “This is one of the safest and best places to live in America, not to mention the beautiful scenery that you wake up to day after day. There are so many successful business men and women in a small radius. The culture here is incredible.”
In April 2019, she paid $27 million in cash to acquire the two-building office/retail development known as Country Club Plaza — and an adjacent undeveloped lot — all near the front gate of Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, the embodiment of upscale residential addresses in Northwest Arkansas.
Hachem spent millions more on two small businesses and various other residential and commercial properties in the region. It includes additional land around Country Club Plaza to create a “superblock” of Hachem-owned property, with additional development of her own in the pipeline. Her investments also include 55 acres west of the entrance to the gated Shadow Valley neighborhood in Rogers.
Hachem has also made philanthropic contributions to the area. A seven-figure gift is helping Fayetteville-based organization Arkansas Athletes Outreach build a Benton County branch on Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers. Now she gives her financial support to the U.S. Marshals Museum.
“Making a significant contribution to the United States Marshals Museum was a noble decision for me. This worthwhile institution will not only be a cultural destination for Fort Smith, but it will also showcase civic literacy and our Constitution which will be a tourism and economic beacon for the River Valley,” Hachem said in a media release announcing the donation.
Marshals Museum Foundation officials have been talking to Hachem about donating to the museum. She was invited to Fort Smith for a tour of the city and the facility, now under construction in downtown Fort Smith on the banks of the Arkansas River.
“She was over the moon with the area, the murals and culture along with the museum and the education it is and will provide,” said Alice Alt, vice president of development for the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation.
A philanthropist at heart, Hachem saw the opportunity that the Marshals Museum would bring to the area and wanted to be a part of making it a reality, the media release noted.
“The Marshals Museum will be a place of education, conversation and culture for children and adults of every age. I’m proud to be a part of the history of American and of moving the Museum closer to grand opening,” Hachem said.
Alt said the donation shows that fundraising efforts did not stop during the recent Build the Future sales tax campaign.
Fort Smith voters on March 12 rejected a one-cent, nine-month sales tax that would have raised an estimated $16 million for completion of the museum. The Fort Smith Board of Directors in December approved an ordinance for an election on the tax. At the time, the museum had raised enough money – $35.5 million – to pay for construction of the facility, which began in July 2018. The remaining funds were needed to build the exhibits and “experience” of the museum.
“It’s important to note that during the campaign, everyone was asking what our Plan B was. You’re seeing it. Fundraising efforts never stop. We are constantly having conversations, turning over every stone. We are focused on raising the funds and ensuring the success of the museum,” Alt said. “Donors like Laurice Hachem give our project national scope and credibility. She is an exceptional human being.”
The museum is set to dedicate the building and the Hall of Honor Sept. 24, the 230th anniversary of the Marshals service. The goal is to open the museum late 2020, Alt said.
“We want to thank the community of Fort Smith and the show of support before, during and after the (sales-tax election) campaign. In the near future, we will be launching a fundraising campaign for people to help the museum. All of those who said they were for the museum, just against a tax will have the chance to help,” Alt said.