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Downtown Bentonville parking lot to close as construction on new parking deck ramps up

by Mike Jones | May 29, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
The public parking lot at 300 E. Central Ave. in Bentonville will close June 5 to make room for a hotel parking garage. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

BENTONVILLE -- A downtown lot of nearly 100 parking spaces will close early next week so construction on a new parking garage can begin.

Benton County received an email notification the lot at 300 E. Central Ave., just south of the County Administration Building, will close June 5.

The parking garage is for an independent hotel downtown that is under construction.

Blue Crane will partner with Ropeswing Hospitality on food and beverage operations for the hotel project, according to a May 2022 news release announcing the hotel plans. Blue Crane and Ropeswing Hospitality are affiliated with Runway Group, a holding company headquartered in Bentonville backed by Steuart and Tom Walton.

Blue Crane, a development and real estate company, is managing the hotel project. Both the hotel and parking deck are expected to be completed late 2024, according to Blue Crane.

Madeline Taylor, general counsel for Blue Crane, detailed the June 5 lot closure in an email to Benton County officials.

"The parking lot at this location will not be available for use after that date, and we wanted to notify neighboring property owners and parties who use the existing lot of the upcoming construction," Taylor wrote.

That area is a paved lot county employees and others use for parking. The lot has 93 spaces, said Jim Wheeless, city GIS coordinator.

County staff have been notified of the pending lot closure, said Melody Kwok, county communications manager.

The new parking structure, a half a block east of the hotel, will be developed through an agreement with the Off-Street Parking Development District. The improvement district isn't governed by the city nor county.

Plans show a 46-foot-tall, mixed-use parking garage. The development will include 1,585 square feet of retail space and a 167,806-square-foot parking garage with 456 parking spaces, according to city planning documents. Entry will be off East Central Avenue and Southeast B Street.

The garage will have 286 parking spaces for public use, according to Blue Crane.

Tony Alvarez operates the food truck Tony's Taste of Chicago on a leased spot on Southeast B Street. Dave Peel Park is on one side of the street and an entry into the parking lot is on the other side next to the food truck.

"I think in the long run it will be fine," he said of the impending construction. "I am looking long term. Once all this construction is done, I am going to be sitting in a pretty spot. People will still come to me, it might be a little more inconvenient, but, in the long run, it will be more convenient."

There are 2,389 public parking spaces in the downtown parking district, Wheeless said. Public lots are those owned by the city and the parking development district. Some other lots have restrictions on when public parking is allowed, according to the city.

All the parking is free except for the Ledger parking garage from the second floor and up, Wheeless said.

The parking district encompasses an area that can be generally described as a few blocks off of the downtown square in each direction except for the southern boundary, which stretches a little farther to Southwest Eighth Street.

The county opened a temporary, 60-spot gravel parking lot at 207, 209 and 215 N.E. Second St. northwest of the County Administration Building in November, said Bryan Beeson, county facilities administrator.

Bentonville's Planning Commission approved a permit for the temporary parking in September. Bentonville Revitalization Inc. was the applicant for the conditional use. The permit is good for two years.

The gravel lot does not have restricted access and is open to the public, according to planning documents. The county doesn't own the property, County Judge Barry Moehring previously said.

The county will maintain the lot during the conditional-use period, Beeson said.

The 116,000-square-foot hotel will include an event space, restaurant, bar, cafe, two retail spaces and 142 rooms. Cycling-specific amenities will include a bike valet, secure storage and a bike wash, according to the release.

There are 24 hotels with 2,214 rooms in the city, said Alison Nation with Visit Bentonville.

The hotel site is at the intersection of Southeast A Street and East Central Avenue, south of the Benton County Courthouse, on the former Tucker's Corner site.

The hotel is west of Dave Peel Park along the planned A Street Promenade, which will connect the yet-to-be-built Bentonville Commons, a planned plaza/activity space, at the south end to Lawrence Plaza, three blocks north. The estimated promenade cost is $13 million, David Wright, city Parks and Recreation director, said earlier this year.

Work on the first part of the promenade near Lawrence Plaza should start this summer, Wright said.

  photo  Bentonville Hotel is under construction downtown. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Bentonville Hotel is under construction downtown. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

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