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Early Childhood Initiatives Center to Break Ground On $16.5M Facility

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The Early Childhood Initiatives Center announced Tuesday that a groundbreaking ceremony for its new 45,000-SF, $16.5 million facility in Bentonville is planned for 11 a.m. on Oct. 19 at Hayfield on J Street, directly south of the Amazeum.

The building will contain both the 8,700-SF ECIC and the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center. Enrollment will remain at 240 children, spokeswoman Kristen Herbert said.

She also said both centers are moving from a 31,000-SF facility at 1701 NE Wildcat Way in Bentonville that was constructed in 1982 and has been remodeled several times since then.

The ECIC has already raised $15.3 million of a $16.5 million goal for the project through its ongoing “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” capital campaign. The new facility is expected to open in 12-14 months.

The new facility will feature an expanded training center; computer lab; library for curriculum, books and resources; a collaboration room; resource center; remote training spaces for distant centers; and an open plan with flexible space to allow for growth.

The center said it aims to address the shortage of early childhood development facilities in the area, while providing training for early childhood development professionals. Its ultimate goal, according to a news release, is to ensure that every young child in northwest Arkansas has the opportunity to have a high-quality education by bringing quality accreditation to 100 percent of the childhood development centers in the region.

When the ECIC opened in 2009, funded by a Walmart Foundation gift given in honor of Helen Walton, 19 percent of the region’s centers were quality accredited. Today, 63 percent are quality accredited and the ECIC supports the nearly 500 early childhood programs in northwest Arkansas, serving 32,000 children under the age of 5.

The project’s architect, Paul Lewis of New York-based LTL Architects, plans to attend the groundbreaking and be available to answer questions about the building.

Hight Jackson Associates of Rogers was the local architect partner for the project. Harrison French & Associates of Bentonville served as engineer, and Nabholz was the contractor.

Set to speak at the groundbreaking are John Furner, president and CEO of Sam’s Club; Paul Stolz with the Amazeum; Diane Carroll with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Welspun CEO Julie McKenzie; Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center; and Kyle Peterson with the Walton Family Foundation.

Erin Hogue of the Walmart Foundation and Shelley McMillon and Chris Sooter with the mayor’s office are also planning to attend the event.

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