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One of my favorite hotels in the South is The Alluvian in the Delta city of Greenwood, Miss. It's in a downtown building that housed the Hotel Irving from 1917 until the 1980s. Viking Range Corp. transformed the old building in 2003 and opened a chic hotel named for the alluvial plain that makes up the Delta. Giardina's, a once-popular restaurant, was also revived. The Alluvian, which has led to other developments in downtown Greenwood, is just across Howard Street from a spa and the Viking Cooking School. It has 45 rooms and five suites.

A story in National Geographic Traveler called The Alluvian "the biggest surprise in Dixie, if not the country."

Southern Living wrote: "What global jet-setter would believe that a hotel in Greenwood, Miss., beats out the Four Seasons in Egypt? Yet it's true."

Architectural Digest said: "The Alluvian's sleekly contemporary design would be right at home in New York or San Francisco. The fact that it has popped up in the heart of the Mississippi Delta is a sign that the New South ethos has spread beyond cities with boldface names to nearly all points on the Southern map."

Arkansas has two of the finest hotels in the country in its largest urban areas--the Capital Hotel at Little Rock and the 21c Museum Hotel at Bentonville. But there's nothing in a smaller city that can compare with The Alluvian. That's about to change with the construction of The Haywood in El Dorado.

Downtown El Dorado can already match downtown Greenwood when it comes to Southern charm, and The Haywood, which is being bankrolled by local investors, should take things to the next level. Construction is expected to begin early next year with a target opening date of March 2020. The $14 million hotel will complement Murphy Arts District projects within walking distance--the 8,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, the two-acre playscape, the farmers market, the indoor concert hall, and the upscale Griffin Restaurant. The district's next phase will include the restoration of the historic Rialto Theatre and the transformation of the McWilliams Building into an art gallery that might even include loft apartments for visiting artists.

"The Haywood is critical to the overall success of the district," says Austin Barrow, the chief operating officer for the Murphy Arts District. "The collective MAD experience is what matters, and The Haywood will be an important part of that."

A team led by Newmark Moses Tucker Partners of Little Rock has been put together for the project. The hotel will be designed by AMR Architects and built by Clark Contractors. The Eric Rob & Isaac agency will head the branding and public relations efforts. Beechwood Hospitality will oversee hotel operations. The Haywood with have four stories with 70 rooms. There will be a swimming pool and a heavily landscaped outdoor courtyard.

"You don't have to live in El Dorado to feel the great sense of community it has," says Ray Nolan of Newmark Moses Tucker. "We want to create a place where everyone--locals, corporate travelers and weekend visitors to the Murphy Arts District--will feel at home. What has been done with the Murphy Arts District is amazing. The Haywood has been a special project to work on, and the end product will stand alone."

A bar with limited food service, which will be known as The Well, will have big-screen televisions and a wraparound patio. Jamie Moses of Newmark Moses Tucker calls it "the heart of the project. It's comfortable and refined at the same time."

An adjoining den will have artwork and a fireplace. Moses describes it as a place where a person can "bring over a drink from the bar, sit by the fire and relax."

The hotel's bottom line should be boosted by business travelers in town to visit the offices of Murphy Oil Corp., Murphy USA and PotlatchDeltic. It could also serve as a home away from home for those visiting the defense-related industries near Camden.

"El Dorado and surrounding towns like Camden are vital economic assets to Arkansas as a state," says Terry Stewart, the chief executive officer for the Murphy Arts District. "The problem is that there are no destination hotels of this quality where business travelers visiting the area can stay. The owners were adamant that The Haywood be the premier place for them."

El Dorado is far enough from Little Rock, Hot Springs and Shreveport that it also has a chance to become the leading meeting location for the region. The Haywood should help business at the nearby El Dorado Conference Center. The center's director, Barry Bagwell, says: "With the new hotel and the Murphy Arts District right outside our window, we can significantly enhance our offering and bring more business through our doors. It becomes a destination for those who need facilities like ours."

"It's about getting people to El Dorado," says Bob Tarren, the chief marketing officer for the Murphy Arts District. "Of course, the district is part of that--the live concerts and festivals and shows. But the city needs companies and organizations to book their events here. The conference center needs to be able to offer lodging that's basically right next door to it."

I've long said that El Dorado has the best downtown of any city its size in the country. The Haywood ups the ante.

"It's not every day that you get this kind of buy-in," Moses says of the support of El Dorado business and civic leaders. "For us, it's an opportunity to be a small part of something transformative."

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Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.

Editorial on 12/05/2018

Print Headline: The Haywood experience

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