SPRINGDALE -- John Tyson got a lesson about lumber last week -- reclaimed wood accents most spaces in the new Tyson Emma office, which will open in downtown Springdale with a private ribbon cutting Tuesday.
The new building at 319 E. Emma Ave. includes the footprints -- marked by the original brick walls -- of the first offices of two of Springdale's poultry innovators: the Tyson feed and hatchery, started by Tyson's grandfather, also named John Tyson, in 1942; and the Springdale Electric Hatchery owned by Jeff Brown. The frontage along Emma bears the original looks of those historic storefronts.
Tyson Emma Avenue
Location: 319 E. Emma Ave., Springdale
New construction: 50,682 square feet
Heritage: The Tyson Foods Emma Avenue office complex was built to include the footprints of the first offices of two of Springdale’s poultry innovators.
• Tyson feed and hatchery: 2,077 square feet; started by company chairman John Tyson’s grandfather, also named John Tyson, in 1942; building originally housed Springdale Produce.
• Springdale Electric Hatchery: 3,347 square feet; owned by Jeff Brown, who perfected electric incubation and developed a breed of broilers.
• Combines 2,077 square feet from the original Tyson feed and hatchery and 3,347 square feet from the Springdale Electric Hatchery, owned by Jeff Brown.
Source: Tyson Foods and The Springdale News
"John Tyson's office was over in that corner," said Heather Chilson, director of corporate services for Tyson Foods, pointing to the the southeast corner of the room that housed the original headquarters. The building held Springdale Produce when Tyson bought it, said Archie Schaffer, retired Tyson executive and consultant to the company. The building burned in 1946 and was rebuilt the next year, according to articles in The Springdale News provided by the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale.
Tyson's grandson John Tyson, now chairman of Tyson's board, toured the 56,106-square-foot facility Wednesday and talked with Matthew Young, the project superintendent for Milestone Construction. During construction, workers removed tile ceilings in both the Tyson and Brown buildings to reveal the original wood ceilings, which they found a way to reuse, Young said.
"It's all old-growth wood," Tyson said, sharing his new knowledge. "Coming from this building, it's at least 50 to 60 years old. Think about it, in 1930-1940 someone went out to cut down a tree that was probably 70 to 80 years old. And they planed out in the woods. They have stories of life that was going on."
Tyson and Young pointed out individual boards bearing the marks from hand-planing and cuts by quarter saws.
With an investment in tens of millions of dollars, Tyson Emma will house nearly 300 employees from the company's Information Technology Department, said company spokesman Derek Burleson.
"The team members will focus on supporting a key business transformation program using cloud-based, modern technology that's both robust and scalable to accommodate the organization's future growth," Burleson said.
"You will see no hard-wall offices," Chilson said. The rooms lining the "arcade" area between the two original buildings and open work spaces were planned with collaboration in mind. Each desk area converts between sitting and standing positions with a simple flick of a switch. And all team members will work wirelessly, she said.
A garden area to the west of the building will include a bocci ball pit, a shuffle board court, an area for Baggo and a fire pit for breaks, lunch and team building.
"It's a good way to have cross-department meetings, especially with those who don't know each other," Chilson said.
The building also includes gender-neutral private shower and bathroom areas.
"We are right off Razorback [Greenway]," Chilson said. "We want to encourage our team members to ride their bikes to work. There are areas for bike parking inside and outside."
South of Tyson Emma lies a parking lot with 300 spaces.
John Tyson remembers coming to the building as a child, going to Joyce's Drug Store and watching the Rodeo of the Ozarks parade as it headed west down Emma Avenue -- "typical small-town stuff," he said. "There's a picture somewhere of me sitting at my dad's (Don Tyson) desk with my feet up drinking a Coca-Cola.
"I had a conversation with my dad when deciding to leave Emma to build the new corporate headquarters (in 1969) on family land," he continued. "It's nice to see it back together. I am more than pleased how they connected it and made it come alive.
"It's something the downtown area, the city of Springdale and all of Northwest Arkansas can be proud of."
H3 Studio in St. Louis published a plan for a revitalized downtown Springdale in December 2015 at the request of Springdale and the Downtown Springdale Alliance. Phase 1 acknowledged an investment of $1 million by the Tyson Foundation for downtown revitalization activities and the company's plan for the Tyson Emma facility.
After a big start to the revitalization campaign, people became frustrated at the slow pace of development, said Perry Webb, executive director of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce. "But it's better off to go slow and get it right. Building up from the base, building the core, has the best benefit long term."
"The people have to come [to the area] first," Webb said. "You can plan for restaurants, plan for shops, plan an trail, but until they come to support that economic development, it doesn't work."
The Tyson Emma offices will bring 300 people a day to the downtown district, Webb continued, "where they will go to lunch, take their clothes to the tailor, order a bouquet of flowers."
John Tyson estimated between the company's two downtown campuses, Northwest Medical Center and other businesses in the area put about 1,000 people downtown.
"We wanted a way to put activity downtown and put people downtown involved in activities together," Tyson said. "This entity brings economic activity to downtown -- a critical part of the project."
Amber Belasco, owner of Natural State Sandwiches at 107 E. Emma Ave., said her business has already reaped the benefits of Tyson Foods' presence downtown. As company officials check progress of the Tyson Emma complex, they stop in for a sandwich, she said. And employees from Tyson JTL Building form a line out the door at lunchtime every day.
The presence of the Tyson campus was part of the business' plan to move downtown, Belasco said.
A few restaurants populate the downtown area, but all agree more are needed to serve Tyson employees.
"And we need something for after work," although a few bars are open, said Chilson, who also serves as the president of the Downtown Springdale Alliance. "There are no businesses down there for them to access after work. But I think Tyson's presence will really help the daytime businesses."
The more jobs downtown, the more time people spend downtown, makes a difference in the atmosphere, said Kelly Syer, executive director of the Downtown Springdale Alliance.
And that atmosphere has become charged with anticipation and excitement recently. The completion of Walter Turnbow Park in July along the Razorback Greenway and north of Shiloh Square and the opening of The Apollo on Emma as an event center bring two more destinations to downtown.
Tyson Foods also brought hundreds of runners to downtown Springdale for the annual Hogeye Marathon in April. The event was traditionally held in Fayetteville but was held in downtown Springdale for the first time, starting and finishing on Emma Avenue. The event also will be held in Springdale next year.
The Tyson contributions will have a huge impact for a city that lost a large part of its downtown economic base over the last 60 years, said Stephen Luoni, director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center. In that time, residents moved out to the suburbs and the businesses followed them.
But now the millennials and baby boomers are moving back to downtown areas, bringing with them the dollars they spend on dining and obtaining services in the neighborhood.
"Springdale should use this as a catalyst," Luoni said. "If Springdale wants to do well, they should look at what made them a great city in the 1940s, when businesses were their mainstay.
"In the old days, Tyson was a permanent institution in downtown Springdale," Luoni continued. "It's nice to see their reinvestment."
Luoni listed two major ways to revitalize a city downtown: Housing and businesses -- especially with a broad range.
Leaders of the chamber and the downtown alliance both report conversations with developers and individuals interested in Emma Avenue as a place of business. Webb reported a meeting Thursday with representatives of financial institutions to build an incentive program to entice business to downtown Springdale.
"We are having conversations with so many people who are looking at the area -- wanting to know what store fronts are available, how much square footage is available," Syer said. "These are not firm contracts, but I have every reason to believe we will see spectacular changes."
Both Syer and Webb said developing housing options in the downtown district will come next, and Syer mentioned renovation of Luther George Park. John Tyson reported Tyson has purchased the Fuller building, which stands behind the Tyson JTL offices, and its renovation might be next. The building, originally part of Jones Truck Line headquarters, also housed Fuller Fixtures, which provided clothing racks for retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Webb said.
"We have a plan on the table to make [downtown] more significant," Syer said. "If all the stars align, we should see wonderful development in the near future."
"Be patient," Webb said. "We've got the economy for the project to work. You will see more and more become a reality."
"It puts a warmth in my heart and a smile on my face," Tyson said, to see his family's legacy and his company's contributions to the revitalization of downtown Springdale come to life.
NW News on 11/12/2017
Print Headline: Tyson returns to roots