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.


'Building for a While'

While the Crystal Bridges/21c/WAC trifecta is a major reason for the growth in downtown Bentonville, it's not something that happened overnight.

"This has been building for a while now," Hintz said.

"Back in 2005, the city of Bentonville created a downtown master plan, and soon after that plan was adopted, Crystal Bridges was announced," he said. "I think that's a great example of the city taking a leadership side on downtown development."

Downtown Bentonville Inc. produces and partners on hundreds of events in the city every year. These include a farmers market that has grown tremendously, the Bentonville ArtsFest and First Fridays, a themed event with food and live music that runs once a month from March through November and attracts thousands of people to the square.

"Certainly arts and culture have been a major economic driver in the revival and transformation of this downtown," Hintz said.

Bentonville has "a vibrant community of young professionals and even older professionals like me, who like to get out and enjoy the culture of the area, which is improving every day," Ball said.

And the WAC expansion is also likely to boost commercial development in Fayetteville. The WAC board announced it would develop a 600-seat theater adjacent to the existing 1,200-seat Baum Walker Hall at the corner of Dickson and West streets.

"We are thrilled about the development of a 600-seat theater," said Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. "It gives us a size of venue that means we can book different kinds of acts, which means more people in the entertainment district each night, because we could have several shows going on at the same time or have a show virtually every night.

"We have a lot of programming right now, but there's room to grow, so that's a very strong positive," Clark said. "And it does mean new investment in Fayetteville, not only food and beverage and those kinds of service industries, but also, when people are in town they're going to buy gasoline and shop."

The WAC has also increased its footprint in Fayetteville through its recent acquisition of the Arkansas Music Pavilion, a portable venue set up in the parking lot of the Northwest Arkansas Mall. The WAC did not disclose how much it paid for the AMP, but the board approved the purchase for up to $400,000.



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