Bentonville Stresses Its Small-Town Feel

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Mar. 17, 2014 12:00 am  

Thrive, a mixed-use apartment complex, will be just a few blocks from Bentonville’s downtown square. (Artist’s rendering)

“We don’t need to deny that we have a world-class employer on Eighth Street for a small town in what is essentially a rural state,” said McCaslin, referring to Wal-Mart. “We have a very unusual demographic here.”

What Bentonville soon discovered is many of these newcomers to the area wanted a slower pace of life. “Downtown really created the buzz,” said Ginn. “Town squares are hard to beat.”

While Ginn said a lot of companies want to be on the square, space was limited. ERC was only too happy to fill one of those spaces just a few blocks away.

“First, the energy of Downtown Bentonville is hard to replace anywhere in the country, certainly for a town its size,” Rob Coleman, the owner and COO of ERC, said in an email to Arkansas Business. And second, he added, there is “the quality of life that it offers not only those who live there but people like me that bring my young family to enjoy the farmers markets, splash parks and arts.”

Thrive is marketed for more upscale residents with units ranging from 520-SF one-bedrooms to 1,000-SF two-bedrooms with rent from $800 to $1,200 monthly. Officials said there will be a ground-floor terrace that will be open to musicians and artists.

“We’re trying to create a unique environment so it’s not just some place they go home to,” said ReGina Rotert, ERC’s “experience curator.” “We want to provide them with some quality of lifestyle. Bentonville is rich in culture with lots of things to see and eat and do.”

Coleman said Bentonville’s downtown area matches up with what his company wanted to do with Thrive.

“Our true goal is to establish Thrive as an urban lifestyle brand that is fanatical about the experience of our clients/residents,” Coleman said. “Where this becomes easier than a typical suburban deal is where we have a place like Bentonville that has built-in theater and vibrancy. Most of our developments in the past didn’t have the connectivity that Thrive Bentonville will have nor the opportunity to be a part of the theater that is downtown.”

“Connectivity” is a word Ginn uses in conversation about Bentonville’s developmental plans. Not only does Bentonville want businesses within the Arts District to connect well with each other, leaders want the Arts District to connect well with the other areas of downtown.

One of the attractions for prospective residents of Thrive is so many things are within walking distance. Ginn and McCaslin said many younger professionals want to be able to walk (or bike) from where they live to restaurants, shops or parks.

“A lot of commercial folks are coming in and rebuilding homes, building homes,” Ginn said. “It creates opportunities for people to live here. Downtown has created awareness of additional opportunities for commercial developments.”

It’s not an overnight process. Ginn said many of the projects currently being put in motion, or about to be, have been planned for months or years.



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