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Walton Family Foundation Program Opens New Application Cycle for Design Professionals

November 28, 2023
Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program expands to include urban design and city planning

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (Nov. 28, 2023) – The Walton Family Foundation is opening a targeted application cycle for its Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program. Now through January 4, 2024, urban and city planning professionals are encouraged to submit their work for review at

Established in 2015, the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program promotes the highest level of design in the development of future public buildings and spaces in Benton and Washington counties. The selection of its design professionals, projects and program success is guided by four key principles. They include:

  • A commitment to strengthening public life.
  • Elevating standards of sustainability and resilience.
  • Celebrating local cultures and places.
  • Building regional capacity.

“Over the last eight years, the program has championed 17 visionary projects spanning the region. They range from revitalizing downtown parks to enhancing municipal buildings and elevating performance venues,” said Meredith Bergstrom, Walton Family Foundation senior program officer. “By partnering with hand-selected design professionals, the program invests in projects that understand what people and communities need from public spaces.”

Media Contact
Kathryn Heller

The program is designed to accommodate design firms of all sizes. This includes nationally recognized multidisciplinary firms, smaller specialty firms and new designers. A selection committee of industry experts and foundation representatives is responsible for choosing which professionals will be added to the program. If accepted, designers are able to participate for up to five years or until they are chosen for a project. The pool of firms currently includes over 60 design firms representing 15 states.

“Over the last 25 years, the population in Northwest Arkansas has more than doubled, creating opportunities and challenges in planning and design,” said Bergstrom. “We know that planning is the foundation of good design. By expanding the program to include planning professionals, this program will help Northwest Arkansas become one of the most vibrant and inclusive communities in the nation."

The Design Excellence Program funds ambitious projects that inspire a sense of belonging. They foster connections. They create welcoming public spaces and support meaningful and shared experiences. Planning projects supported by the program could include regional, comprehensive, campus and/or downtown area plans aligned with Home Region strategic goals.

Since its launch, the Design Excellence Program has supported 17 design projects across the region’s five largest downtowns, including:

  1. City of Bentonville: Bentonville City Hall Campus
  2. Community Development NWA: Downtown Bentonville Missing Middle Housing, Sanders Pace Architecture
  3. The Jones Center: JTL Green, Civitas
  4. City of Rogers: Downtown Rogers Alleyway Activation, WXY Architecture
  5. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: Convergence, Studio Bryan Hanes
  6. City of Bentonville: 8th Street Gateway Park, PORT Urbanism
  7. City of Bentonville: Quilt of Parks, Design Workshop
  8. City of Fayetteville: Cultural Arts Corridor/“The Ramble,”
    Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
  9. City of Rogers: Railyard Park, Ross Barney Architects
  10. City of Siloam Springs: Memorial Park, CARBO Landscape Architecture
  11. City of Springdale: Municipal Campus, Duvall Decker Architects
  12. Community Development NWA: Briartown Cottages, Robert Sharp Architects and Massengale Architecture
  13. Downtown Springdale Alliance: Luther George Park Expansion and Renovation, Spackman Mossop Michaels
  14. Thaden School: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and Marlon Blackwell Architects
  15. Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center: LTL Architects
  16. Rogers Historical Museum: Adaptive reuse and expansion, de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop
  17. TheatreSquared: Marvel Architects

Earlier this year, the foundation announced the two newest projects to be awarded: the Missing Middle Housing in Downtown Bentonville and the expansion of the Bentonville City Hall Campus.

A full review of current projects and detailed information about the application process are available at

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.