Walton Family Foundation awards $3.6 million in grants for downtown enhancement projects in NWA

Access to the newly expanded Walton Arts Center could be improved by the design of a new “Cultural Arts Corridor,” to be funded by a $1.77 million grant awarded this week by the Walton Family Foundation

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Walton Family Foundation on Thursday announced $3.6 million in grants to fund five projects intended to “enhance downtowns and urban parks” across Northwest Arkansas.

Fayetteville was awarded $1.77 million to fund design of a 12 acre “Cultural Arts Corridor” to help connect the Walton Arts Center, TheatreSquared’s new facility, the Community Creative Center, and the Fayetteville Public Library. The grant would provide planning and assistance to improve infrastructure and create public spaces on city owned property in the area of concentration, between W. Dickson Street and W. Prairie Street, and Gregg Avenue to School Avenue. The grant will also help with design of land adjacent to the Razorback Greenway in the same area.

A resolution to accept the grant will appear before the Fayetteville City Council on Dec. 5.

The awards were given as part of the foundation’s Design Excellence Program.

“The Design Excellence Program is focused on more than simply elevating design,” said Home Region Program Director Karen Minkel. “It’s about creating spaces that improve livability and quality of life.”

The grants were given to local governments and non profits who submitted applications for parks, green spaces, and plaza projects. Qualifying entries had to include innovative ideas for spaces that would increase public access and leverage the region’s existing trail network. In addition, the projects had to show a commitment to sustainability “by encouraging residents and visitors to engage with the spaces in new ways.”

A full description of the projects that received funding included in today’s media release are as follows.

  • The City of Bentonville will receive funding for the master planning and design of a “Quilt of Parks” that will thread together multiple downtown open spaces into a cohesive experience. Funding will also be used for a full redesign of Dave Peel Park near Bentonville’s Downtown Square. Both projects align with the city’s recently adopted Play Bentonville 2025 plan.
  • The City of Fayetteville will receive a grant to design a series of open spaces within an interactive, 12-acre Cultural Arts Corridor in downtown Fayetteville. Once complete, the corridor will provide easy access to arts and entertainment destinations such as the Walton Arts Center, TheatreSquared’s future facility, Community Creative Center and Fayetteville Public Library.
  • The City of Rogers will receive funding to design and rebrand Frisco Park and the surrounding open space as part of its recently adopted Downtown Rogers Initiative Plan. The urban park will serve as a gateway from downtown Rogers to key amenities in the area including residential neighborhoods, restaurants, retail and public spaces like the Railyard bike park, Rogers Historical Museum and Lake Atalanta.
  • The Downtown Springdale Alliance will receive a grant to jump-start implementation of its downtown master plan with the expansion and renovation of Luther George Park. The park is part of the city’s larger plan to create vibrant public spaces and plazas, with the flexibility to support public art, performing art and seasonal outdoor markets.

The foundation today also announced it awarded a $120,000 grant to the Community Development Corporation of Bentonville/Bella Vista to develop designs for four auxiliary dwelling units in downtown Bentonville. Fayetteville firm Robert Sharp Architects and Massengale Architecture PLLC of New York were selected as architects for the project. Once the designs are complete, the designs would be shared free of charge to the general public and commercial developers.