by Max Brantley
The Wall Street Journal, naturally, has the jump on news of a new hotel the Walton family plans for Bentonville to complement the coming Crystal Bridges museum.
A Walton family investment arm and partner 21c Museum Hotel of Louisville, Ky., are scheduled to disclose Tuesday that they will construct a $28 million, 130-room hotel near Bentonville's downtown square that will open by 2012.
The hotel is one of a handful that operator 21c is modeling after the original 90-room 21c Museum Hotel that it opened in downtown Louisville in 2006.
In an unusual twist, the hotel will be designed to complement the $150 million Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that is under construction nearby.
UPDATE: On jump, long news release on hotel.
Bentonville, Ark. June 8, 2010 — 21c Museum Hotels will build a new combination boutique hotel and contemporary art museum in downtown Bentonville, announced Steve Wilson, Founder and Chairman of 21c Museum Hotels. The new hotel is being developed by 21c Museum Hotels and will be modeled on the award-winning 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, which was voted the #1 hotel in the U.S. and #6 in the world in the Condé Nast Traveler’s 2009 Readers’ Choice awards. The estimated cost of the project is $28 million. It is anticipated to open in 2012 and will bring an estimated 160 new permanent full-time jobs to the area. Investors in the project include a Walton family partnership and Bentonville Revitalization, Inc.
Laura Lee Brown and Wilson, philanthropists and arts patrons, founded the flagship property in Louisville in 2006, driven by their desire to support the continued revitalization of downtown Louisville and to make their hometown an even more vibrant place to live, work and visit. With the critical acclaim and financial success of 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Brown and Wilson have proven that art can drive commerce and serve the community. Members of the Walton family expressed a similar desire to Brown and Wilson: to support the renewal of downtown Bentonville, and to create a hub for culture, entertainment and outdoor activities in the city.
“21c Museum Hotel is about bringing people together with art and each other in new ways,” said Mr. Wilson. “It’s our philosophy to provide an exciting cultural experience to travelers and community residents alike. We are excited to establish a new 21c Museum Hotel as a creative, educational and civic resource for the people of Northwest Arkansas.”
"The best days for Bentonville and its downtown are yet to come," said Mayor Bob McCaslin. "Today's announcement only increases the excitement that already exists around the future opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. This prestigious facility will help complete the transformation of Bentonville into a world renowned destination."
Originally, Brown and Wilson had no plans to expand outside of Louisville. Since the opening of 21c in 2006, Brown and Wilson have been regularly contacted by people interested in adding to the existing cultural and arts scene in their hometowns through the development of a 21c Museum Hotel. The critical acclaim and financial success achieved in the first location has proven that art can drive commerce and serve the community in an important way.
“The growth of 21c Museum Hotels is something that has happened organically,” says Michael Bonadies, President and CEO. “The success of the brand has surpassed our expectations. As a hub of global commerce and a rapidly emerging arts and entertainment destination, Bentonville is the perfect place for a 21c Museum Hotel. We are excited to be part of the team that is making the Bentonville area an even better place to visit, live, work and play.”
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, currently under construction, will be located approximately a quarter-mile from 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville. Other projects in the downtown area include:
a major expansion and re-development of the Walmart Visitor Center;
Lawrence Plaza ice arena and splash park;
expanding network of pedestrian and biking trails;
several infrastructure projects including two new parking areas and section improvements to streets.
21c Museum Hotel will be located on the northeast corner of the Bentonville town square within walking distance of both the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the worldwide headquarters of Walmart. Like the property in Louisville, it will be woven into the fabric of downtown, welcoming both visitors and members of the community to experience its exhibitions, participate in its programs and enjoy its culinary offerings. With over 12,000 square feet of exhibition, meeting and event space, 21c will present special exhibitions, dynamic installations and live art events. Exhibition space will be open to the public free of charge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will also feature an affordable restaurant that supports sustainable agriculture and serves contemporary cuisine showcasing locally grown and produced ingredients.
Design Architect Deborah Berke & Partners, also responsible for the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, will collaborate with Little Rock-based firm Polk Stanly Wilcox and Louisville-based co-developer Poe Companies on the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville. The property in Bentonville will be designed, constructed, and operated incorporating green practices and using sustainable materials.