Companies will soon have more options for office space in or around downtown Bentonville.
The downtown area has seen a revitalization in recent years and received another boost when Walmart Inc. of Bentonville began construction of its new, sprawling corporate campus. Walmart has always attracted vendors wanting to be close to the retail giant, and now two large, high-profile office projects are set to open within the next few months just a short drive from the campus.
These aren’t strictly office developments. The Ledger, a 230,000-SF six-story building at 240 S. Main St., and the Peloton, a 176,120-SF five-story complex at 211 NW A St., will both offer retail and restaurant space in addition to traditional and flex office space.
The Walmart campus, existing cultural amenities such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and a plethora of restaurants have encouraged projects such as The Ledger, Peloton and the 175-room Motto by Hilton hotel at 223 S. Main St. They have made downtown a target area that is beginning to hold its own with other top-tier destinations such as Pinnacle Hills in Rogers.
“It is ‘a’ hot spot,” Butch Gurganus, president of Focus Commercial Real Estate in Bentonville, said of Bentonville’s downtown. “Typically, if you want a larger space, like 20,000 feet, you go to Pinnacle and most of that has to do with the parking. Eventually Bentonville has more parking garages planned and all that stuff, but it will be more of an urban feel.”
Gurganus is responsible for the leasing arrangements for the top two floors of the Peloton, a Walton Family Foundation project. The nonprofit purchased land for the Peloton for $4.1 million in two deals in 2018 and 2020. Gurganus said the first three floors are reserved for retail, restaurants and office leases. Construction on the shell of the building should be completed in December, allowing for prospective companies to tour and decide what kind of build-out they want for their selected spaces.
The Ledger is even closer to completion, with companies expected to be able to move in as early as next month.
Some drama surrounds The Ledger, announced in 2019 at a news conference attended by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The building, with a prime location just a couple of blocks south of the downtown square, was going to be a part of WeWork, a then-surging office-sharing company. WeWork imploded before its public offering and left the project in 2020, but property owner Josh Kyles stayed the course, knowing that office space at the location was a winning bet.
Kyles bought the property for $3.5 million in 2015 and took a $70 million construction loan. Marshall Saviers, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield/Sage Partners, is overseeing the management of the property and said Kyles’ faith is being rewarded.
The building, designed by renowned Marlon Blackwell Architects of Fayetteville, features switchback ramps that allow bicyclist and pedestrian access to each level.
Each floor offers different options. The first has retail and conference rooms, the second has co-working space, the third is for flexible space, and the fourth and fifth have traditional office space. The top floor will have large meeting rooms and an outdoor patio.
“We have seen an enormous uptick in activity the last 60 days,” Saviers said. “Folks are trying to reimagine their office space in the new world work environment, which includes a hybrid work schedule. People are looking for less space but nicer space. We are seeing that in the Pinnacle area as well, where people are gravitating toward nicer buildings. Folks are going from C and B space to A space but are maybe taking less space.
“It is going to be more of a communal space where they can come and plop in and get a cube or a huddle room.”
Gurganus said downtown offices offer different advantages than those at, for example, Pinnacle Hills. While Pinnacle Hills has more than its share of Class A spaces and has plenty of parking, the area isn’t particularly walkable.
Downtown, Gurganus said, will not have lots of parking — at least until the parking garages catch up — but it will have amenities like restaurants and parks a short walk away. The Peloton will be connected to its own parking garage by a skywalk across A Street.
“It’s like your house. If you want the really cool stuff, it will cost more,” Gurganus said. “If you want the really cool stuff, you might have to walk to your office.
“Once you park, you don’t have to leave unless you have a meeting. It depends on how you work. If you’re a business who is in and out all the time, maybe you don’t want to go downtown.”
New Work World
As Saviers said, there are new ways of conducting business in the current work environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a work-from-home model many employees still want. As pandemic fears have lessened, many companies have moved to a hybrid model, in which employees work remotely several days a week and from the office on other days.
Saviers said that makes office planning important. An office has to offer amenities a worker wants to leave his or her house for, and the downtown environment is definitely a lure.
“The quote I use a lot is, ‘How are you going to lure people from working at home when you feel like you’re going into another home?’” Saviers said. “You have to make it fun and collaborative and a place where clients want to come as well. It’s not just the building being, quote-unquote, nice; it’s the amenities it offers, the walkability, all the things people want.
“People want to be around other people, right? So make it a fun, collaborative environment for them.”
The energy and amenities of downtown also helped land the Motto, a surprise development that Gurganus said he almost accidentally set in motion. Gurganus was speaking with a friend who noticed that Gurganus was in Bentonville. The friend noted that he consulted for a hotel company that specializes in downtown hotels.
Eventually, officials with the company, Windsor Aughtry Co. Inc. of Greenville, South Carolina, visited and toured Bentonville, liked what they saw and bought property for $1.3 million — coincidentally across the street from The Ledger. The $32.9 million hotel is scheduled to open next year.
“That’s the craziest one,” Gurganus said. “I was like, holy cow, I wasn’t even trying to do a deal.”