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Sure, that ol’ statue in the middle of the Bentonville square has been hogging the spotlight here lately (not bad for a 100-year-old-plus piece of stone), but the change that’s really going to have a lasting impact on the city’s downtown is still more talk than action.

It’s referred to as the Quilt of Parks, and it’s a natural process for a lot of talk to precede pouring of concrete, planting of trees and grass and building of spaces designed to breathe new life into a downtown area that’s already quite vibrant, especially when compared to a lot of communities in Arkansas.

This “quilt” will certainly change the fabric of downtown Bentonville. Planners say it will be nothing less than “an innovative, transformative and lasting project for the economy and community of Bentonville” that will “elevate the current experience of downtown from one that is appealing to local residents to an exciting place for a highly educated incoming population.”

WHAT’S THE POINT?

Bentonville’s “Quilt of Parks” plan offers an amazing transformation in the heart of the city.

OK, that is a lot of designer-speak, but it gives a basic idea of the eventual scope of this project, which is envisioned to happen in phases costing, eventually, as much as $49 million.

Bentonville will never be the same again. But that’s a good thing, especially when the plan reflects the importance of highlighting history and preservation of key community spaces such as the downtown square.

The project anticipates converting several blocks of downtown’s A Street — between Southeast Second Street and Northeast Third Street — into a promenade, linking several renovated and new parks into one downtown amenity.

Among all these public spaces would be art elements, plazas and stages, open spaces that could be used for exhibitors or merchants, a festival lawn where performances can be featured, and design elements meant to “activate” alleys that aren’t now amenities.

All of it would be tied together with lighting and outdoor spaces designed to be teeming with activities.

Last week, all of this became a bit more than just the dreaming, which had happened over the course of 21 public meetings: The Bentonville City Council unanimously approved the plan.

“It may take 10 years to do this and that’s OK. That’s normal,” said David Wright, the city’s parks and recreation director.

With the vision more or less established, Bentonville will have to look toward some way to fund the project. Wright said it could involve city money, funding from the city’s tourism tax and private-sector money. It makes perfect sense that all segments of the community — businesses, residents, visitors — be involved because it’s easy to see how it benefits them all.

A lot of headlines of late have been about Bentonville’s past, but the future is what’s really looking bright.

Print Headline: Making the quilt

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