Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart, told members of the Northwest Arkansas Council that the retailer’s new corporate headquarters will not be one grand structure, but will be a “functional campus” that will look more like a college campus.
Bartlett spoke Wednesday (Jan. 15) at the Northwest Arkansas Council’s winter meeting in Bentonville and shared details about the retail giant’s new corporate campus taking shape in Bentonville.
Walmart first announced in September 2017 plans to build a new corporate headquarters campus near the existing headquarters in Bentonville. The project will be built in phases, and company officials said at the time that construction will take between 5 to 7 years. The development plan encompasses a 350-acre site that includes several existing buildings that have been razed or will need to be. Officials with Walmart have yet to provide a cost estimate on the total project.
Bartlett said Walmart outgrew its home base and resorted to spreading out across the region into 21 different buildings which became physical silos in the changing world of retail. He said the move to a modern corporate campus was needed as the company had squeezed all it could from its present locations.
Bartlett said the need to attract and retain talent is also factored into creating the new campus. The top request he’s received from employees is the demand for more natural light, he said. Thus, the new layout is far more like a college campus that is divided into four quadrants, and Bartlett said he’s making sure the office buildings have plenty of windows.
“We are not building the Taj Majal, but we are contracting a functional campus with the sensibility you could expect from Walmart,” he said. “We want to feel like part of the neighborhood and are working to make those integrations by providing services like childcare, fitness center and dry-cleaners within close reach.”
He said the fitness center location on 14th Street will become a 16-acre public park with hiking and biking trails. The Razorback Greenway will meander through the middle of the campus park. He said there is a hotel planned at the intersection of J Street and 8th Street that will allow Walmart to house its employees and interns on campus.
He said the campus will be tech enabled and also take advantage of the natural topography and watershed located on the premises. He said there will be a large food commissary onsite and because so many of the employees live within 3 to 4 miles of the location, there will be fewer parking spaces for cars and more space allowed for bikes and alternative modes of transportation.
Bartlett said Walmart will be thoughtful about what happens to the 20-plus buildings it now occupies around the region.
“We want to be good neighbors and we will put the community benefit first when we decide what to do with those spaces,” Bartlett said. “The easiest part of the conversation has been that we never considered leaving Bentonville. We wanted to double down here in Northwest Arkansas. This is the largest construction project in Northwest Arkansas and we will be thoughtful about its impact on traffic patterns and also other building projects in the region.”