The Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, will temporarily shutter its doors on November 1 ahead of an extensive renovation project geared to make the space more “inclusive, accessible and interactive” according to an October 7 announcement penned by Cindi Marsiglio, the Bentonville-born big boxer’s senior vice president of corporate real estate.
Incorporating both the historic adjacent Walton’s 5&10 (Sam’s Walton’s second retail outpost in Bentonville and the first with Walton name) and the Spark Café (an old-timey soda fountain known for its blue and yellow ice cream), The Walmart Museum first debuted at 105 North Main Street in downtown Bentonville in 1990 as more of a “traditional visitor center” and underwent a major preservation effort in 2011. In spring 2024, the museum will emerge from the just-announced refresh with an expanded exhibition area, new education-dedicated space, and a revamped rooftop patio.
Marsiglio described the upgrades as “the next steps in reinventing how people see Walmart’s rich history.” (In a small Northwest Arkansas city best known as the birthplace of the world’s largest company, one would assume that an attraction dedicated to Walmart-ian lore would be Bentonville’s marquee museum; thanks to the largesse of billionaire Walmart heiress and art collector Alice Walton, it’s not.)
Just as notable as the fact that the Walmart Museum is undergoing an extensive makeover is that it will temporarily set up shop at Bentonville’s buzziest new building, Ledger, while work is underway at its Main Street home. Located just two blocks south of the Walmart Museum, Ledger is a six-story community hub-cum-office complex set to partially open later this month following a two-year construction phase.
The lead-up to the 230,000-square-foot development’s opening has generated a significant amount of attention due to one singular feature: a 3,900-linear-foot exterior bike and pedestrian switchback that extends from the sidewalk to the top of the building along its South Main Street facade. Visitors and tenants will be able to access each of the six floors via a series of terraces that line the zig-zagging exterior path, which links to Bentonville’s sizable existing network of bike corridors. As noted on the Ledger website, the full-length of the switchback, from the ground level to the sixth floor, is 3/4-mile of a mile—the same distance from the new building to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. On-site features for bike-to-workers include e-bike charging stations, secure storage, showers on each floor, and a dedicated “refresh lounge.”
Billed as the “world’s first bikeable building,” Ledger was designed by a team comprised of Michel Rojkind with local practice Callaghan Horiuchi and Fayetteville-based Marlon Blackwell Architects, who also served as architect of record.
“The Ledger continues our collective dedication to creating environmentally responsive projects that emphasize positive user experience and wellbeing through links to nature within the built environment,” said Marlon Blackwell, principal of Marlon Blackwell Architects, when the $51.6 million project topped out in May 2021.
The interim Walmart Museum will debut at Ledger on the same day that its permanent home closes for renovations. Meanwhile, the Spark Café will be reborn as a mobile, truck-based operation while its permanent space at The Walmart Museum is renovated. In addition to the temporary Walmart Museum, the first floor of Ledger will be home to several local businesses including Airship Coffee and Mertins Eye & Optical as well as an experience center for California-based bike and bike gear company Specialized. (As noted by local media outlet Talk Business & Politics, opening dates for Ledger’s retail spaces will firm up later this year.)
The upper five floors of Ledger are a mix of private offices for lease and coworking space available via a membership program. The sixth floor will be home to a 20,000-square-foot, indoor/outdoor event venue. The building also boasts an extensive public art program, including a large-scale work by Stefan Sagmeister and works presented by local artists in partnership with Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange (CACHE).
We’ll circle back when Ledger—temporary location of The Walmart Museum included—is fully up and running in the coming weeks.