Bentonville's Market District projects advance

Riders pedal Saturday through Bentonville’s Market District.
Riders pedal Saturday through Bentonville’s Market District.

BENTONVILLE — A few projects underway in the Market District have the southeast area of downtown on the cusp of becoming another destination.

Residential developments are coming online, a mixed-use project is planned, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is working on its next venue and 8th Street Market continues to add vendors.

The Market District is one of two the city identified in its Southeast Downtown Area Plan, adopted 2014. The other is the Arts District, which is three blocks west of the Market District. Developing new destination areas is needed as the downtown square is reaching capacity, according to the plan.

“We hope this confluence of new projects will create a rich cultural experience for people who live, play, or eat downtown.”

— Beth Bobbitt, Crystal Bridges public relations manager

Experience districts

The SE Downtown Area Plan identifies two experience districts south of the downtown square. The boundaries are a guide to identify each area, can be fluid and are not to be used as hard lines.

The Market District is bounded by Southeast Fifth Street to the north, Southeast

Eighth Street to the south, Southeast D Street to the west and the east edge of the property where the 8th Street Market is.

The Arts District is between Southwest A and South Main streets between Southeast Fourth and Southeast Sixth streets.

Source: Staff report


NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHRIS SWINDLE

A map showing the location of Bentonville's Art and Market districts

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City and planning officials frequently discuss the challenge of which comes first, the residential options or the commercial offerings, when developing or redeveloping an area because they need each other to be successful.


Lamplighter Restoration’s jazz-themed, three-building, multi-use development will provide both on the east end of the Market District on Southeast Sixth and Southeast D streets, which are the north and west sides of Austin Baggett Park.

Developers Todd Renfrow and Patrick Sbarra said they see the project activating that block into an area where events will be held, people will gather and commerce will take place.

“We thought of a community, not just a single building,” Sbarra said. “We’re crafting an entire neighborhood here.”

The three buildings will be built in three phases, and the designs will have a timeless feel with a modern touch where they look like old buildings that have been revitalized, Renfrow said.

“We want that blend,” he said. “We want something that’s going to be desirable long term.”

Each of the buildings are named after different jazz composers. Jazz originated in New Orleans in the 1900s and is often seen as America’s classical music, Renfrow said, adding the theme is an opportunity for the development to tie into the city’s art culture.

The first building called The Marsalis will consist of five row homes ranging from 2,200 to 2,600 square feet. A sixth unit on the west side will be retail space. The Marsalis is under construction on the north side of Southeast Sixth Street.

Developers said they hope to start construction on the second building, known as The Ellington, this summer. It will be 30,000 square feet with restaurants and retail on the ground floor and residential units above.

The Hancock, the third building, will be similar to The Ellington but on a smaller scale, developers said. Specifics aren’t yet finalized. It will be north of The Ellington and west of The Marsalis.


The Station Cafe, which will close its doors at its 111 N. Main St. on April 28, eventually will be one of the restaurants in The Ellington. Cecil Turner, who has owned the downtown diner since the mid-1990s, decided to sell after the building he’s in went up for sale. Five couples — all related in some way — bought the cafe to preserve its history and the family friendly experience it offers, said Dani Madison, one of the investors.

Madison is the sister of Dana Renfrow who is the wife of Todd Renfrow of Lamplighter.

Madison said they tried to find a place on the square to move the cafe but nothing was available. Moving it to the Market District will be exciting, however, because of the activity in it, she said.

The restaurant will temporarily operate out of a food truck on the northwest corner of the intersection of Southeast Sixth and Southeast D streets, Madison said. The house that’s there now will be converted into indoor seating and outdoor seating will be available. The goal is to get food truck operational by June 1.

The long-term plan is move the restaurant into The Ellington on Southeast D Street just south of Southeast Sixth and west of the park.

There will be some changes but much of what creates The Station’s experience will remain the same, including offering its staple steak burger, Madison said.

“We’re open to new ideas but at the same time want to preserve that experience,” she said.


The Ellington could be finished by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020, which would coincide with the Momentary opening.

Momentary is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s 63,000-square-foot contemporary space that will be in the former Kraft plant at 507 S.E. E St. It will showcase visual and performing arts as well as house an art-in-residency program.

About 3.5 acres east of the building will be used for concerts and other events. It can hold from 4,000 to 6,000 people, according to Scott Eccleston, director of operations at Crystal Bridges. There also will be a meadow to the north where a sculpture will be installed.

“We hope this confluence of new projects will create a rich cultural experience for people who live, play, or eat downtown,” Beth Bobbitt, Crystal Bridges public relations manager, said in an email about the development of the experience districts and Momentary’s role in it.

Crystal Bridges revealed its plans to transform the empty plant into a contemporary arts space in March 2016. Site work has started and building improvements and landscaping should begin late this year, Bobbit said.

“We are in the early phases of program planning, but we see lots of synergies and opportunities to collaborate with neighbors such as Lamplighter,” she said.


Lamplighter’s project is just the latest of several developments in the Market District over the past three years. Blu Fresh Fish Marketplace was one of the first businesses to set up in the district in 2015.

The 8th Street Market opened two years later with Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food as its anchor. Brightwater is Northwest Arkansas Community College’s culinary program. The Market has also acquired Bike Rack Brewing Co., Markham & Fitz Chocolate Makers and Yeyo’s Mexican Grill as tenants.

The old Ice House is serving as office space.

Tourmaline Urban Lofts, a 15 townhouse community, was completed last year on Southeast D Street.

The SE Downtown Area Plan identifies Southeast Sixth Street as the main corridor between the Arts and Market districts.

The goal is for it to be a pedestrian-oriented connection between the two districts, said Shelli Kerr, interim community and economic development director. City planners envisioned it to be predominately residential with a high density.

“What they’re proposing fits right into what that vision is,” Kerr said of the Lamplighter project. She added the retail and restaurant spaces will help support the residential units.

Melissa Gute can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter@NWAMelissa.

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