Arts Projects, Downtown Commercial Development Transforms Bentonville

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Mar. 14, 2011 12:00 am  

Terri Trotter, COO of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, said the organization?s expansion plans for Bentonville and Fayetteville would likely be a catalyst for more commercial development.

Despite a sluggish national economy and a regional real estate market that has fallen quite a ways from the white-hot heyday of the mid-'00s, downtown Bentonville is booming.

The area has undergone something of a transformation during the last few years. Many restaurants, galleries, offices and retail operations have opened, and three major upcoming projects are only going to speed the pace of downtown development.

Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be opening Nov. 11. The 21c Museum Hotel, a $28 million, 130-room boutique hotel and museum, is slated to open in 2012. And at some point in the near future, the Walton Arts Center will build a 2,200-seat performing arts center in or very near downtown.

(Click here to read more about the Bentonville WAC venue.)

(Click here, here, here and here to read more about Crystal Bridges, or here for more about 21c.)

These projects are driving a lot of the increased interest in downtown development, said Ramsay Ball, principal with Colliers International's Fayetteville office.

"We're seeing it already," he said. "We're seeing a lot of interest in the area; we've already got a lot of restaurants that have been announced in the downtown area and, of course, some hotel activity. It will be very, very positive."

Ball said he has a couple of transactions in downtown Bentonville in the works right now. "So I can tell you personally that things are happening there, and we're seeing really quite a bit of activity," he said.

That activity is likely not going to be limited to retail development, restaurants and entertainment venues, he said. "Hopefully we'll see increased density with residential units to make a more vibrant, round-the-clock activity," Ball said.

Terri Trotter, COO of the Walton Arts Center, said the combination of the new WAC performance venue, Crystal Bridges and 21c would help continue the development of an entertainment and arts district downtown, acting as anchors and spurring more businesses to open.

"When you have people coming out to performances and things like that, restaurants, things to do, places to get a drink and hang out are a big part of that experience, so it sort of brings that business in as well," she said.

Several new restaurants have been announced recently, said Daniel Hintz, executive director of Downtown Bentonville Inc. These include Tusk & Trotter, Tavola Trattoria, the Pressroom and Flying Fish, all of which are in the works for 2011 openings. In September, the Wal-Mart Visitors Center will reopen on the square after an expansion and renovation project is complete.



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