21c Museum Hotel Expands In Walmart’s Home Town

The 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Tennessee
The 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Tennessee

21c Musem Hotels Plans Property In Bentonville, Arkansas

BENTONVILLE, Ark. June 8, 2010 – 21c Museum Hotels, a growing brand of properties that combines a boutique hotel and contemporary art museum, today announced plans to build its newest property in downtown Bentonville.  The estimated $28 million project will be based on the core concept created for the award-winning 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Ky., which was voted the #1 hotel in the U.S. and #6 in the world in the Condé Nast Traveler’s 2009 Readers’ Choice awards.  The hotel is expected to break ground this fall and open in 2012.  Project investors include a Walton family partnership, Bentonville Revitalization, Inc. and 21c Museum Hotels. 

 21c Museum Hotels also are under development in Cincinnati, Ohio and Austin, Texas with plans to develop 15 properties over the next three to five years.

 “We created the first hotel in 2006 as much out of our love of the arts and revitalization of downtown Louisville, as we did for a hotel investment,” said Steve Wilson, founder and chairman of 21c Museum Hotels.  “My wife and fellow co-founder Laura Lee Brown and I wanted to make our hometown an even more vibrant place to live, work and visit.  In the process, we discovered, almost by accident, that art can drive commerce while serving the community.  Members of the Walton family expressed a similar desire to support the further renewal of downtown Bentonville and to create a hub for culture, entertainment and outdoor activities in the city.

 “21c Museum Hotels is about bringing people together with art and each other in new ways,” Wilson noted.  “We succeed by providing a lively cultural experience for travelers and community residents alike.  This hotel will be a creative, educational and civic resource for the people of Northwest Arkansas, as well as add some 160 jobs to the local economy.”

 Originally, the founders had no plans to expand outside of Louisville.  However, the hotel’s success both as a hotel and art museum attracted the attention of other civic-minded community leaders around the world who were interested in adding to the existing cultural and arts scene in their hometowns.  The hotel’s 150+ RevPAR Index compared to its competitive set and 300+ RevPAR Index compared to the Louisville market was an added incentive.

 “The growth of 21c Museum Hotels is something that has happened organically,” says Michael Bonadies, president and CEO.  “Our success has resonated with forward-looking communities and has surpassed our expectations.  With two other projects in development, we envision at least 15 properties open within three to five years.  Our developments will focus on dynamic cities, both large and small, that have a thirst for contemporary cultural, dining and hospitality destinations, and where there is a strong local partner.  Each project will be unique, designed to fit the needs and tastes of the local community.  We believe our hotel will play a meaningful role in making the Bentonville area an even better place to visit, live, work and play, a formula that can be duplicated worldwide.”

 “The best days for Bentonville and its downtown are ahead,” said Mayor Bob McCaslin.  “Today’s announcement only increases the excitement that already exists around the future opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  This prestigious facility will help complete the transformation of Bentonville into a world renowned destination.”

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a new complex in a 100-acre park currently under construction with a permanent collection of American art ranging from the colonial era to contemporary works.  The iconic wood and glass building will house galleries, meeting and classroom spaces, and a large auditorium.  The Museum will be linked to downtown Bentonville by sculpture and walking trails and will be located approximately a quarter mile from 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville.  

21c will be located on the northeast corner of the Bentonville town square within walking distance of not only Crystal Bridges but also the worldwide headquarters of Walmart.  Like the Louisville museum and hotel, it will be woven into the fabric of downtown, welcoming both visitors and members of the community to experience its rotating exhibitions, participate in its programs and enjoy its culinary offerings. With more than 12,000 square feet of exhibition, meeting and event space, 21c will present curated, rotating exhibitions, dynamic installations and live art events.  Exhibition space will be open to the public free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The preliminary plan features a five-story contemporary building with an active street level presence.  The hotel will offer a spa, fitness center and other amenities. The hotel also will feature a restaurant that supports sustainable agriculture and serves contemporary cuisine showcasing locally grown and produced ingredients.  It also will showcase the 21 Museum Hotel’s iconic penguins, created by Cracking Art Group.

Design Architect Deborah Berke & Partners, who created the cutting-edge 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, will collaborate with Little Rock-based firm Polk Stanly Wilcox and Louisville-based co-developer Poe Companies on the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville.  The property in Bentonville will be designed, constructed, and operated incorporating green practices and using sustainable materials.

Deborah Berke & Partners other projects have included the Yale School of Art & New Theater, the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and the James Hotels in Chicago and Scottsdale.  Deborah Berke & Partners won two 2009 Design Awards from AIA New York State and was a finalist for the 2008 National Design Award for Interior Design, which is given by the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper Hewitt Museum for exceptional and exemplary work in domestic, corporate, cultural interior design.

 About 21c Museum Hotels
 21c Museum Hotel was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, philanthropists and arts patrons, who shared a vision to make downtown Louisville an even more vibrant place to live, work, and visit.  21c is a 90-room boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, award-winning restaurant, and cultural civic center in historic downtown Louisville.  With over 5,000 square feet of art-filled meeting and event space, 21c guests enjoy authentic Southern hospitality and accessible luxury while exploring the work of contemporary artists in North America’s only museum dedicated solely to art of the 21st Century.  Voted the #1 Hotel in the U.S. and #6 in world in the 2009 Condé Nast Traveler annual Readers’ Choice Awards, 21c Museum Hotel is dedicated to redefining the art of hospitality.