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Campus in Springdale to undergo redesign

Jones Center asksresidents for input by Laurinda Joenks | January 29, 2021 at 3:14 a.m.
Jim Cordes, of Springdale, rides a recumbent exercise bike Friday, January 15, 2021, inside the Jones Center in Springdale. The Downtown Springdale Alliance is sponsoring public events for the public to share their visions of a reimagined Jones Center. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

SPRINGDALE -- Many tongues have spoken, and they overwhelmingly asked for the same result from a reimagined Jones Center: A place to come together.

The Walton Family Foundation awarded a design excellence grant to the Jones Trust to improve its Springdale campus, said Ed Clifford, executive director of the trust.

The trust supports and manages the legacy left by the late Bernice Jones, widow of Harvey Jones, the founder of Jones Truck Lines. The company's truck terminal, mechanical shop and offices were turned into a community center and a home for nonprofit agencies.

The 52 acres of the Jones campus has three buildings: the Jones Center, the Center for Nonprofits at the JTL Shops and the Harvey Jones Education Building. The trust also operates the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary's in Rogers.

An online survey for the public started in November and had received about 800 responses as of last week, Clifford said. The second phase of the survey went out Jan.22 and asks respondents to consider specific ideas such as a worship space, memorial walk, outdoor classroom and small business and entrepreneurial events. The public input period will end in May.

Both surveys are available in English, Spanish and Marshallese.

Civitas, a landscape architecture firm in Denver, will turn the dreams for the campus into reality, said Mark Johnson, Civitas founder and president. The architects will take about a year to create a plan for the campus.

Initial drawings presented last week by Scott Jordan in a Zoom meeting took advantage of the large, concrete parking areas and basketball courts behind the three buildings of the Jones campus, which also will receive updates.

Jordan, a principal at Civitas, showed options for a parklike space that features a green lawn, picnic areas, a space for an artist in residence, new courts for pickle ball and basketball.

The final plans will complement other downtown projects, such as Luther George Park across East Emma Avenue.

Clifford said the Jones Trust will open a capital campaign to raise money for the project when a design is finalized. Trust officers have determined the trust will pay up to $25 million for the project.

The Jones Center and its other buildings operate on a $6 million annual budget, paid for in thirds by fundraisers; revenue from leases and memberships; and the trust's endowment.

The Jones Center has about 1 million visitors in a normal year without covid-19, he said.

The Harvey & Bernice Jones Center for Families opened in 1995 as a place where "all are welcome who behave as ladies and gentlemen," the website quotes Bernice Jones.

"When architects are asked to design a building, the building always has a purpose -- like a house or a library or a school," Johnson said.

The surveys help them know what people need and want for the campus, he said.

Whatever is happening outside needs to tie with what's going on inside, Jordan said. He wants an easy shift either way to join activities.

The new plan will connect the various campuses and the Razorback Greenway. The City Engineering Department is reviewing plans for a trail from the Jones Center to Fitzgerald Mountain.

Jordan also presented a plan Thursday to "announce" the entrances to each building.

"There are a lot of entries into all the buildings," Jordan said. During his first trip to Springdale last fall, "we were kind of lost and confused about which door we were supposed to use," he said.

Jordan also said he was amazed by the agencies that take advantage of low-cost office space in the Center for Nonprofits.

"Essentially, every one of them are about empowering individuals and families to be successful," Jordan said. "There is a lot of good going on within those walls. We need to figure out a way to celebrate those."

The statues of Harvey and Bernice Jones are visible Friday, January 15, 2021, inside the lobby are of the Jones Center in Springdale. The Downtown Springdale Alliance is sponsoring public events for the public to share their visions of a reimagined Jones Center. 
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
The statues of Harvey and Bernice Jones are visible Friday, January 15, 2021, inside the lobby are of the Jones Center in Springdale. The Downtown Springdale Alliance is sponsoring public events for the public to share their visions of a reimagined Jones Center. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
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