WeWork’s future involvement in 228,000 SF downtown Bentonville building unclear

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,442 views 

New York-based co-working giant WeWork announced in April 2019 its intention to build a 228,000-square-foot office and mixed-use building at 224 S. Main St. in Bentonville, two blocks south of the downtown square.

WeWork and the landowner, Center City LLC, led by Bentonville developer Josh Kyles, announced the Bentonville project as an investment partnership.

Since that announcement, a lot has changed at WeWork. Founded in 2010, the company enjoyed a mostly meteoric rise, but 2019 was challenging. The company went through a failed initial public offering (IPO) in the fall, and co-founder Adam Neumann was ousted as CEO and chairman.

Following those two events, the embattled company’s new leadership has reduced its massive lease liabilities. Just last month the Wall Street Journal reported WeWork sold control of its China business, the latest sign that the company is abandoning its former rapid growth approach and looking to reduce risk.

That drawdown strategy may impact the Northwest Arkansas project.

Here’s what is known. Center City LLC did file a large-scale development plan for the building earlier this year, and the construction–complete with a tower crane rising high in the skyline– is now moving forward on South Main Street.  Nabholz Construction of Rogers is leading the project with a building permit valued at $51.6 million.

There are rumblings, however, that WeWork is no longer involved in the development. In emailed responses, multiple people in a position to confirm or flatly dismiss the rumor have declined to do so.

From Alyssa Botts, a WeWork spokeswoman: “We will politely declined [sic] to comment here, but I’ll be sure to reach out if/when we have any official updates on our end.”

From Marshall Saviers, president of commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield/Sage Partners in Rogers, which is involved with the project: “No comment, as well. We will have additional project info coming out in the near future, and I will be in touch.”

From Kyles: “I will second Marshall’s response. No comment, and we should have messaging, [photos] and be able to answer questions within [the] next few weeks. Please reach back out and look forward to being able to give you some clarity and images for your readers.”

WeWork’s involvement with the large office building may be unclear, but the company’s global startup incubator program is coming to Northwest Arkansas. WeWork Labs will hold a “socially distanced” launch event and open house on Oct. 29. The event begins at 4 p.m. and is on the second floor of the historic Massey Building at 125 W. Central Ave., in downtown Bentonville. It’s open to the public, although capacity is limited due to social distancing. The event will also be streamed live via Zoom. Advance registration is available at this link.

A panel discussion will include speakers from WeWork Labs, Walton Family Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Council, Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce.

WeWork Labs is WeWork’s global digital platform connecting and supporting early-stage startups and small businesses. It empowers people and organizations to impact the present and influence the future, according to a news release

WeWork Labs currently supports more than 2,300 startups across 200 industries. It works closely with industry leaders and experts to help kickstart and grow companies and exponentially accelerate their growth. Collectively, its startups have raised almost $200 million and connected with more than 3,400 mentors and 4,000 founders just like them. WeWork Labs conducts over 200 global events every week in approximately 80 labs.

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