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Local communities banking on town squares and downtowns to bring community together
By Dave Woods |

Marci DeVenney doesn’t actually live on a local town square, but she understands why it’s so popular in Northwest Arkansas.

“It has to do with access to many different experiences,” said Marci, communications and community outreach coordinator for Downtown Bentonville, an organization devoted to promoting the community’s downtown. “It has food, art, retail, festivals, parades and parks. All of these things are within a very walkable or hikeable area. That’s what makes it very enticing for these downtown squares developing around the country and Northwest Arkansas.”

Many communities such as Bentonville, Fayetteville, Springdale and Siloam Springs have worked to preserve downtown buildings and turn once shuttered structures into modern multi-use spaces. It brings community together, Marci explained.

“It’s a combination of being true to your historic roots and offering modern amenities that people want,” she said. “Living within a downtown and having mixed use with retail and residential and dining is great. It’s so important for the community to preserve their roots.”

While preservation is key to a downtown’s resurgence, it’s also an important economic engine. First Thursday in Fayetteville, First Fridays in Bentonville, farmers markets and art and wine walks all drive business and community engagement.

“A lot of the retail businesses benefit from monthly festivals like these,” she said. “It’s
bringing 5,000-10,000 people right outside their doors. That’s not an opportunity every single business gets to have. To have that opportunity once a month is good for economics, but it’s also good for the community to bring everybody together.”

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