Creating a place where all are welcome to gather and belong
Through the Walton Family Foundation’s Design Excellence program, Civitas was selected to create a vision for the 52-acre campus of the Harvey and Bernice Jones Center for Families, in downtown Springdale, Arkansas. The Jones Center opened in 1995 on the site of the former Jones Truck Lines headquarters and terminal facility with a mission to welcome anyone and everyone to enjoy its abundant amenities and services. Over twenty-five years later that mission is still strong, and the Center’s impact is large, and yet it’s ready to grow to attract and serve Northwest Arkansas’ diverse populations even better. A new vision plan for the currently underutilized campus aims to unify all the Jones Center’s many important components and create a vibrant space where the entire community can come together.
Our goal is to make The Jones Campus more inviting for all of Springdale, which is Northwest Arkansas’ most diverse community with populations of Latin American, African American, Southeast Asian and Marshallese residents. So, our job is to listen to the community’s stories and then interpret them through design. Our robust public engagement process included partnerships with trusted members of the local community, dozens of interviews, multilingual surveys, and in-person events – including drive-thru dinners that showcased local restaurants, chefs, caterers, and cooking schools. The input received throughout this process made it clear that this community wants a place where they can gather and reinforced the opportunity to expand upon Bernice Jones’ original mission and become an even more powerful community champion – the place where people gather, linger, and feel a strong sense of belonging.
The preliminary vision plan outlines a series of bold changes intended to:
- Expand The Jones Center’s existing recreational amenities;
- Introduce new open spaces and plazas for the community to come together;
- Create an interconnected system of hard and soft-surface trails, walkways and bicycle trails tying The Jones Campus into downtown and out into the region;
- Unify the campus by providing physical and visual connections between all areas;
- Incorporate art as placemaking experiences that pique the interest of users;
- Imprint the campus with culturally-inspired design gestures that bring prominence to the diverse communities that make up Springdale; and
- Give people the gathering places they crave.
To create a gathering place that the community can use when and how they want to, the 52-acre campus is designed to deliver a wide range of meaningful and personal experiences. Garden spaces and wildflower meadows will be the backdrops for quiet connections with nature. An outdoor fitness pad and a new use of the old Jones Truck Line wash building will offer flexible space for groups and organizations to host classes or events. Outdoor courts will be available for basketball, pickleball and more. A large, sloped lawn area will act as a new community amphitheater. Bleachers as well as outdoor picnic tables adjacent to the Jones Center’s indoor cafeteria will provide space to sit. A triangular play zone will feature an accessible play structure as well as space for nature play and different zones for different age groups. A courtyard between the Jones Truck Lines shops (already used as the Center for Nonprofits) and tire building (envisioned as an art garage) will become an outdoor living room-like space and an amenity for the buildings’ workforce. And a marketplace zone, with adjacent space for parking, will enable farmers markets and pop-up events.
At the core of campus is the “Community Common,” a large open green space that can be used for informal soccer games, performances, and other large gatherings. This is one of those spaces that is currently underutilized but that has major potential to become a meaningful community hub. The community just needs to know that it’s there—and that it’s theirs. Strategic design interventions around the perimeter of the site and enhanced physical and visual connections into the site are intended to create more visibility into the campus core, drawing people to come in and discover.
Springdale, Arkansas, US
Master planning, landscape design, urban planning
Client: The Jones Center and Jones Trust
Collaborators: Velocity Group; E|D|G; ETM Associates; Core Architects; Verdant Studio; Tillett Lighting Design Associates, Inc.; Engineering Consultants, Inc.; Creative Arkansas Community Hub and Exchange (CACHE); HP Engineering; Earthscape Play; Marlon Blackwell Architects; Power Play LLC
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette | Public asked to help design reimagined Jones Center in Springdale, November 2021