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Walton Family Foundation Announces Two New Design Excellence Projects

June 28, 2023
Appoints new member to selection committee

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (June 28, 2023) – The Walton Family Foundation announced two new Design Excellence projects to support new "missing middle" housing in downtown Bentonville and a campus expansion of Bentonville City Hall.

The foundation also announced the appointment of Ellen Dunham-Jones to its Design Excellence Selection Committee. She is co-author of the “Retrofitting Suburbia” book series and director of the Master of Science in Urban Design degree at Georgia Tech.

Dunham-Jones will contribute to the committee's purpose of promoting the highest level of design in developing public buildings and spaces in fast-growing Northwest Arkansas.

Media Contact
Kathryn Heller

Dunham-Jones joins Toshiko Mori, founding principal of Toshiko Mori Architect PLLC; Peter MacKeith, dean and professor at Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas; and Mia Lehrer, founder of Studio-MLA on the selection committee.

Each year, the Design Excellence Selection Committee searches for designers including architects, landscape architects and urban designers. This group is then matched with projects selected by the Walton Family Foundation.

The program funds ambitious projects that inspire a sense of belonging, foster connections, create welcoming public spaces and support meaningful and shared experiences. Recent projects include the acclaimed Railyard Park in downtown Rogers, Thaden School in downtown Bentonville and the Springdale Municipal Complex. These projects received acclaim in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and Architectural Digest. Design Excellence projects have also won prestigious awards such as the 2023 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Regional and Urban Design Award (Railyard Park, Rogers) and the 2023 AIA Regional and Urban Design Award (Thaden School, Bentonville).

The two newest projects include:

Missing Middle Housing in Downtown Bentonville

In May 2022, Community Development NWA (formerly the Community Development Corporation of Bentonville/Bella Vista) received a Design Excellence grant. As a result, they hired Sanders Pace Architecture to design high-quality and affordable housing for the local workforce in downtown Bentonville. The innovatively designed units will fill a gap in locally available "missing middle" housing. This is defined as the range of housing types that fit between single-family detached homes and mid-to-high-rise apartment buildings. The project will test a replicable model for more well-designed and affordable housing on infill lots near workplaces, schools and cultural amenities.

Bentonville City Hall Campus Expansion

The city will use its Design Excellence grant to search for a qualified firm to conduct stakeholder engagement, a feasibility study and conceptualize a master plan. The project will expand the current City Hall facility into a campus that will provide opportunities for public gatherings and governing. It will emphasize building a sense of belonging for all Bentonville residents within this civic space.

About Ellen Dunham-Jones

Dunham-Jones is the director of the Master of Science in Urban Design degree at Georgia Tech, an authority on sustainable suburban redevelopment and a leading urbanist. Author of more than 100 articles, she co-authored the “Retrofitting Suburbia” book series, which documents successful retrofits of aging big box stores, malls and office parks into healthier and more sustainable places.

Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, (Wiley, 2009, 2011) received a PROSE award as the best architecture and urban planning book of 2009 and has been featured in The New York Times, Time Magazine, Harvard Business Review, NPR, PBS, TED and other prominent venues. Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges (Wiley, 2020) received the Best Place Book of the Year award from the Environmental Design Research Association.

Dunham-Jones is the former chair of the board of the Congress for the New Urbanism, lectures widely and conducts community workshops.

About the Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving Education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.