Paul Esterer with Newmark Grubb Arkansas works with Commercial Investors on the redevelopment of Bentonville's downtown Market District

About one year after the city of Bentonville unveiled a master plan creating two new commercial districts flanking the downtown square, investment is flowing into commercial and residential projects.

The Market District, which encompasses several blocks southeast of the downtown square, was targeted for the culinary arts and food district, according to city planners. This diverse area includes three large industrial buildings — The Ice House, Tyson and Kraft Foods plants —set for redevelopment as well as small business openings and expansions.

Allie McKenzie, one of the architects who worked on the plan prototype renderings, said the district is likely going to support food and retail business services as well as provide educational opportunities around the culinary arts.

ICEHOUSE REDEVELOPMENT

Rustin Chrisco and partners April Seggebruch, Stan Zylowski and Ben Butler doing business as Icebreakers LLC purchased the historic Ice House for $650,000 from the Bank of Fayetteville in November 2013. They plan to redevelop the 15,563 square-foot industrial facility into office and mixed-used space.

Located in the heart of the Market District, the building is a short four-block walk to square and it sits on the Razorback Regional Greenway trail system which runs directly behind the building.

Chrisco said the building is historic dating back to the 1900s as an icehouse and cold storage facility for residents and businesses in Bentonville. The concrete, stucco and brick walls contain four inches of cork, a natural insulator used in the 1900s. 

“We hope to restore the building and preserve many of its natural features while also bringing in some modern comforts,” Chrisco said.

The first order of business was dehumidification and bringing the electrical systems up to date as well as adding fire and smoke alarm systems. Chrisco said the roof is in good shape and the concrete floors are being re-stained while the brick and concrete walls are being painted. The building already has one tenant, Clear Channel Retail, a marketing advisory firm that caters to retailers and suppliers, set up shop in the building last fall. Ted Fox, partner at Clear Chanel Retail, said his space is roughly 1,000 square feet and the location is perfect given he’s just a few blocks from key Wal-Mart offices.

Work at the Ice House is underway to complete office renovations for Movista, a local startup founded by Zylowski and Seggebruch, who are also part owners in the building. 

Chrisco said Movista, which also serves the retail sector, has spoken for a large portion of the 7,000 square feet under renovation. He said at least one other tenant has reserved space. That leaves about 7,500 square feet of space which includes a large open space and a commercial kitchen.

“We haven’t yet decided on the use for the space that is unspoken for because there are lots of possibilities – a theater or perhaps an event center or meeting space. We hope to lease the commercial kitchen to several folks who would contract to use it at various times,” he said.

The is a large concrete area that runs along the back of the building and Chrisco plans to cover it with an awning for an outdoor sitting area that looks directly at the Razorback Greenway just six feet away.

Chrisco said the partners have secured funds to finance the renovations and there is ample demand for the office space which will be completed by mid-year. He is no stranger to redevelopment and historic buildings are some of his favorite work. Chrisco recently restored the former Dickson House at 711 Central Ave. in downtown Bentonville. The 3,600-square-foot home is listed for $749,000. 

FRESH FISH MARKET

Barry Furuseth is the owner of the new Fresh Seafood Market located at 607 S. E. Fifth St., which sits across the street from the Ice House. Fursuseth signed a 15-year lease-to-purchase option but will spend roughly $700,000 opening and expanding the fresh seafood market.

The projected opening for the wholesale and small retail market is set for mid-February. The lobster tanks were set up this week by Reef Ready and the new freezer and ice chilling stations were also installed.

“I moved to Northwest Arkansas eight years ago from Los Angeles. Selling seafood has always been my business but being this far inland it’s been a challenge to get the freshest and highest quality and variety of seafood that is easily accessible on the east and west coasts,” Furuseth told The City Wire.

He said a year ago he talked with local chefs about their willingness to support a local supplier if the fish was fresher than they were sourcing from Little Rock and Kansas City.

Chrisco said he is able to fly in fresh catches daily because of the airline service out of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to Seattle and Northeast port areas.

“We envision a wide open market like the Pike’s Peak market in Seattle. The fish is laid out on ice for the public to chose from. The boats in Boston and Seattle that will be suppling our fish, crab and lobster go out each day. That day’s catch will be in route to Bentonville within 10 to 12 hours after it comes out of the water. That’s vastly different from these huge boats of fish that leave Asia and travel for two to three weeks to get to the U.S. ports,” Furuseth said.

He also has a truck service that will deliver fresh items four days a week from the Gulf of Mexico.

Furuseth hired Chef Patrick Mosher out of Houston to run the culinary kitchen at the new seafood market. The plans include wholesale and retail sales and a lunch counter serving up fresh lobster rolls and other seafood entrees. 

The initial market is roughly 4,000 square feet, but Furuseth plans to add 5,000 additional square feet which will include a larger restaurant in the coming months. He has purchased two temperature controlled vans and will deliver fresh seafood to local restaurants daily each morning.“Chef Mosher also plans to offer culinary internships for aspiring chefs in the area,” Furuseth said.

“We expect to push 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of seafood through this market each day,” Furuseth said. “We secured a liquid food composter that uses enzymes to digest fish trimmings and waste within a 24 hour period that will ensure there is no fishy smell in the neighborhood.”

The market will also offer smoked varieties of salmon, tuna and other fish cuts as well as whole fish, which are favored by Indian restaurants and consumers. Another feature at the fresh seafood market will be a large blackboard that spells out the sources of each item sold that day. For instance, in the case of Maine lobster, the exact boat making the catch will be named.

“We will also feature Seattle king crab from Sig Hansen’s boat. He’s part of the Deadliest Catch television series,” Furuseth said.

FUTURE PROJECTS

The former Tyson Foods plant, which is directly across the street from the Fresh Seafood Market and the Ice House, and the old Kraft cheese plant are the two large industrial facilities in the heart of the Market District.

Those properties are in the planning stages of redevelopment, according to Paul Esterer, executive manager of Newmark Grubb Arkansas.

Esterer said there are no final plans in place for the two largest redevelopment opportunities in the Market District. He said both properties have been cleaned and investors are mulling the possibilities to find the highest and best uses.

The original intent for the Tyson Foods building was to be a culinary marketplace and possible spill over area from the Farmer’s Market. NorthWest Arkansas Community College’s culinary arts program has voiced a desire to locate to the Market District once the property is ready.

Esterer said over the next two to three months more plans will be revealed for the Tyson Foods and Kraft Foods plant sites.

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