WeWork building a ‘big’ deal for Bentonville, but how big?

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,358 views 

The concept of co-working is not foreign to Northwest Arkansas, with a number of spaces setting up shop in the region in the past few years. The business model is becoming more popular for small companies that don’t want to commit financially to long-term building leases or for freelance workers who don’t have a permanent office.

But the idea took a major step forward April 1 with the announcement that co-working giant WeWork is going to build an office in downtown Bentonville.

Though specific design details are still in development — a groundbreaking isn’t expected until 2020 — the office building will be one of the largest in Northwest Arkansas. What is known is the building will be approximately 200,000 square feet and will be one of WeWork’s first ground-up developments. It is expected, according to the official company announcement, to accommodate retail, community space and a workplace for more than 3,200 people, made up of a mixture of individual entrepreneurs, small- to medium-size startup teams and even large enterprise businesses.

The development will be an investment partnership that includes WeWork and the landowner, City Center LLC, led by Bentonville developer Josh Kyles. The site is a 1.5-acre lot a couple of blocks south of the downtown square on South Main Street.

What is unknown is exactly how tall the building will be or where a potential parking component might fit into the development plan. A WeWork spokesperson said the building design will ultimately fit within the city’s current zoning standards. The property on South Main Street is zoned downtown core, which limits the height of the building to 80 feet — which works out roughly to seven or eight stories.

The site was formerly occupied by a 32,745-square-foot nursing home facility called Bentonville Manor. The business license was relocated to a new facility in Rogers two years ago, and the building was razed last year.

For comparison to other large office buildings in Benton County, the 10-story Hunt Tower west of Interstate 49 in Rogers totals 226,000 square feet, is about 92% occupied and has about 1,050 workers. Bentonville Plaza, a nine-story office building across from the Walmart Home Office with about 270,000 square feet, is 94% occupied and has between 900 and 1,000 people working there each day. It’s built on approximately 2 acres.

WeWork provides shared office spaces around the world. The company began 2019 with more than 400,000 members at 425 locations in more than 100 cities across 27 countries.

Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann started the New York-based real estate company in 2010, but in the nine years since, it has evolved as a data-driven tech company. WeWork has acquired a number of software companies in recent years.

The most recent deal was announced in February with the acquisition of Euclid, a San Francisco-based software company specializing in gathering data on people as they move through physical space.

WeWork is sufficiently positioned for continued expansion in the tech space. A recent report at Forbes.com described the company as growing at a “breakneck” pace, with revenues approaching $2 billion last year.

WeWork has attracted nearly $13 billion in venture capital since the company launched, according to Forbes, with the most recent cash infusion of $6 billion in January from Japan’s SoftBank putting the company’s valuation at $47 billion, one of the most valuable startups in the world.