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When It’s Time to Go

4032 3024 Austin Barrow

When It's Time to Go

This morning I decided to count up all of the different homes I have lived in over my past forty-one years. The total may be a little surprising to people that do not know me well, but if you’ve been paying attention, then the number twenty-one might seem low. This confirmed suspicion and I have now built enough evidence to prove … I might be a bit of a gypsy.

On average, I move to a new home every two years. Now, many of those moves are only across town for a new, better, cheaper, etc. living space. Occasionally it’s across the country from city to city for work or because it’s time for a new challenge. Now that I prepare for my next significant move, I am attempting to categorize the why in a way that will feel familiar and in some respects give it a sense of approval that it is currently missing.

Whenever I am asked to recount my personal history, I usually toss out the tale that I left home at the age of eighteen, never looking in my rearview mirror, and promising myself that I would never move back home. This proved false when a semi, full of my belongings, pulled back into my hometown fifteen years later. However, that initial move was a mere fifty miles down the road. So, although it was some distance, I could still bring my dirty laundry back on the weekends.

The first real significant move was north to Chicago. I was newly married to my high school sweetheart, freshly graduated from college, and ready to take on the world. I was excited because Chicago was a “real” city. I wasn’t a local recluse. I had traveled internationally at that point, but there is a fine line between visiting somewhere and living there, becoming part of a community, not observing one.

It was summer in the south, hot. Really hot. Stains of sweat marked the path on the concrete between my boxes and the trailer I was loading, but if I took more than two-minute break, it would disappear. My grandmother, all five feet of her, was trying to help. This mostly meant finding additional items within her home that she thought I might like to add to my collection of nick-nacks. I was attempting to dissuade her, explaining that my new apartment was not quite five-hundred square feet, but it was a losing battle.

When talking about the move, everyone at that point told me my future would look something like the pilot episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. I would be a fish out of water, lost in the hustle and bustle of an enormous place. I could hear the silent conversation of folks laying down bets on how long it would take for me to come back home. My grandmother, however, knew better.

As I was finishing up on the last boxes, near heat exhaustion, she brought me a glass of water. She looked up at me, smiling as she usually was and said, “I think you are going to love it there. The city will suit you better than anyone knows.” Whether she believed that or was just trying to calm my nerves for the impending resettlement, I don’t know. What I do know is she was correct.

These past eight years, being back in my hometown has been the perfect respite for my entire family. They were, perhaps a necessary stamp in the events of my life. I’m not talking about the work I completed, but the people I’ve met and family I got to be a little closer to, if only for a moment. With most of them moved on, both physically and metaphysically, it’s time for us to seek out home number twenty-two.

This one will be more difficult, as leaving home is always, but this second time around feels more permanent. So, perhaps there is no category to define the why for this upcoming transition. Probably transition is just our norm. Some of us are meant to toss our flag in the ground, lay down roots, build a firm foundation, and grow. I guess we’ve just gotten better a pitching a tent and seeking out adventure.

Stories Hiding Everywhere

950 646 Austin Barrow

Stories Hiding Everywhere

In this age of overabundance, I’m always amazed when I discover the story of a unique person that has gone untold in a grand scale. There are so many hidden gems of human compassion, suffering, expansion, and struggle that are still buried, waiting to be dug up, refreshed and retold. I was reminded of such a tale when I took a wrong turn this past weekend and ended up down a dead-end road. Deep beneath the water that lapped at the edge of the dirt road, a man’s story has been waiting to be told.

The fall of 2005, I had recently relocated to Fayetteville, Ar. to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas. My wife and I were getting readjusted to a slower pace of life, having finished a six-year-long stint in southern California. The mountains were washed in color from the changing of the season, and we were out exploring the revealed ruins of a grand resort in the city of Monte Ne.

Built by William “Coin” Harvey, this health resort was wholly submerged with the creation by the Army Corp of Engineers of Beaver Lake. The resort had a private rail line from nearby towns that ended in a gondola ride from the train station to the hotel. That’s right, I said a gondola ride. He had the boat shipped from Venice. Nothing like true authenticity.

It seems, however, that Coin was not so good with the coin. He made numerous attempts to keep his unique destination open for business, and there are reports of many famous individuals visiting the resort over the years. In fact, the only ever presidential convention held in Arkansas was at Monte Ne for William Jennings Bryant, The Great Commoner.

One attempt to keep attention on his dream was the creation of a pyramid which would house a time capsule filled with all of the advancements of the modern era. The stock market collapse of the late twenties officially ended the construction, but that didn’t slow Coin’s efforts. He sent word to every wealthy man he knew to join The Pyramid Association to assist with what he thought was quite the worthy mission.

Having piqued my interest, I assumed that the school library had some compelling information about this wild attempt to create a unique experience in the middle of nowhere. There was definitely fruit on that tree. If memory serves, I found several published pamphlets calling for assistance to build the pyramid and some advertisements for patrons to come and stay for the healing waters of the Ozarks. One ad included a picture of the “lagoon” he had created. An orchestra was perched on a floating island surrounded by a man-made amphitheater with stone seats.

No secret that this endeavor ended tragically, bankrupt and underwater. However, it is one of those tales that always leave me wanting a little more. What could have possibly been going on in Coin’s life? He moved to Northwest Arkansas, bought thousands of acres of land, miles from anyone or anything, and opened a business with no experience. This is not the actions of your everyday person. He was probably a little eccentric, maybe a little crazy, but a dreamer for sure.

$14 Million Dollar Destination Boutique Hotel Announced Next Door to Murphy Arts District

600 411 Austin Barrow

$14 Million Dollar Destination Boutique Hotel Announced Next Door to Murphy Arts District

Over the past year of operation at the Murphy Arts District, I have heard one comment over and over again, “When are you guys going to get a first class hotel?” Well, the wait is over. For the past several months a group of investors has been working on coming up with a solution that will bring El Dorado, Arkansas one step closer to being a destination that you can’t miss out on.

Yesterday in an article in the Arkansas Times an announcement for the upcoming Haywood Hotel was released. This property, located adjacent to both the Murphy Arts District and the El Dorado Conference Center will be the perfect lodging placed in the best spot possible for both facilities. I can’t wait to see this building projecting into the skyline of our historic downtown, and filled with visitors from around the region.

The Haywood is critical to the overall success of the district. The collective MAD experience is what matters, and The Haywood will be an important part of that.

Full Press Release:

An El Dorado-based ownership group announced today it is bringing a boutique hotel to downtown El Dorado as part of the Murphy Arts District (MAD).

Named The Haywood, the hotel is scheduled to break ground in early 2019, with a target opening of March 2020. It is budgeted at over $14.0 million, and will be developed by Newmark Moses Tucker Partners (NMTP) of Little Rock.

“Newmark Moses Tucker was the unanimous choice when it came to carrying out the vision the owners wanted for The Haywood,” said Terry Stewart, MAD Chairman and CEO. “We needed a firm that could make the hotel a distinct stand-alone destination, while ultimately supporting and strengthening the district as a whole.”

The hotel will be ideally situated a half block from the new farm-to-table Griffin Restaurant and Music Hall, one block off the downtown square. It is the latest addition to the multi-million dollar Murphy Arts District, the first phase of which was completed in August 2017. Phase 1 includes The Griffin, along with a new 8,000 seat outdoor amphitheater, farmer’s market and 2-acre “destination playscape” for kids.

Austin Barrow, MAD President and COO, said The Haywood not only fills the need for new accommodations in downtown El Dorado, but also embodies the ambition and spirit of the Murphy Arts District.

He credits the leadership and financial backing of the local ownership group in making the hotel a reality. All have deep ties to El Dorado, the vast majority of them serving as leaders in the community both on the corporate and non-profit side. The group is driven by a commitment to making El Dorado culturally rich and economically prosperous, now and in the future.

“It wouldn’t be possible without them,” said Barrow. “And that’s important, because The Haywood is critical to the overall success of the district. The collective MAD experience is what matters, and The Haywood will be an important part of that.”

The majority owners of the hotel consist of community leaders committed to making El Dorado culturally rich and economically prosperous, both now and in the future. Some of those owners include members of the Murphy family, founders of Murphy Oil, Murphy USA and Deltic Timber.

BancorpSouth originally contributed the land to what would become a MAD-related entity, which in turn deeded it to the current ownership group. The project will be financed by El Dorado-based First Financial Bank, and key development partners include the architecture firm AMR Architects and general contractor Clark Contractors. Advertising agency Eric, Rob and Isaac will lead The Haywood’s branding and PR efforts, and Beechwood Hospitality will manage and oversee all hotel operations.

The Haywood will consist of four stories and 70 rooms, all of which will be on the second, third and fourth floors. A pool and outdoor courtyard will feature a prominent fireplace and manicured landscaping, and can be reserved for private parties, corporate gatherings and other events.

According to Ray Nolan, Senior VP of Development for Newmark Moses Tucker Partners, programming and designing the first floor of the hotel will be a major focus of the project.

“You don’t have to live in El Dorado to feel the great sense of community it has,” said Nolan. “We want to create a place where everyone – locals, corporate travelers and weekend visitors to the Murphy Arts District – will feel at home.”

To help achieve this, AMR Architects set out to create a space where classic materials were reimagined throughout a rich and layered interior. This includes art installations and hand selected furnishings.

Central to the hotel will be The Well, a full-service bar with a limited food menu. Here, inlaid marble tile floors and a stained wood bar employ traditional design materials in new and dynamic ways. The bar will have two big-screen TVs, and will open onto an outdoor wraparound patio with ceiling fans and couches where groups can sit street side in a sophisticated front porch setting.

“The Well is at the heart of the project,” said Jamie Moses, Director of Development for Newmark Moses Tucker Partners. “It’s comfortable and refined at the same time.”

Just off the bar is The Haywood’s signature “den.” The room will include a TV, banquet and soft seating, featured art work, sconce lighting and a textured tile fireplace.

“The coziness of the space is intentional,” said Moses. “You can bring over a drink from the bar, sit by the fire and relax.”

In addition to these spaces, the lobby will feature hardwood floors and a coffered, twelve-foot ceiling. White ridged tile will finish the check-in desk, and arched openings will lead hotel guests into the bar and living room. The lobby will also provide a dedicated space for light breakfast items and snacks, complete with a large farm table with charger and docking stations.

“What’s been done with the Murphy Arts District is amazing,” said Nolan. “The Haywood will have that same energy and excitement. It’s been a special project to work on, and the end product will stand alone.”

Moses acknowledged the importance of both the ownership groups’ and city’s support for the project, and said The Haywood could serve as a template for similar hotels in other cities and towns where growth initiatives are fueled by strong civic as well as corporate engagement.

“It’s not every day that you get this kind of buy-in,” he said. “For us, it’s an opportunity to be a small part of something transformative. We’d do it all over again if we could.”

Along with Murphy, Murphy USA and PotlatchDeltic, a number of public and private companies within some of Arkansas’ largest business sectors have significant operations in El Dorado. These include Systems, Inc., Conifix Timber, Canfor Corporation, Delek, El Dorado Chemical, Clean Harbors, Lanxess and Nexans Amercable.

In addition to providing a first-class hotel experience for out-of-town employees and partners of these companies, The Haywood ownership group believes the hotel will capture the significant number of overnight visitors doing business with large area companies outside of El Dorado. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Raytheon Missile Systems, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics are just a few of these companies.

“El Dorado and surrounding towns like Camden are vital economic assets to Arkansas as a state,” said Stewart. “The problem is that there are no destination hotels of this quality where business travelers visiting the area can stay. The owners were adamant that The Haywood be the premier place for them.”

Located just a half-block from the El Dorado Conference Center (EDCC), The Haywood will also help the city compete for larger state and regional conventions, trade shows and other corporate and association events.

“We need to be able to provide lodging that’s essentially adjacent to the conference center,” said Barry Bagwell, Director of the EDCC. “Now we can, and that’s huge. With the new hotel and the Murphy Arts District right outside our window, we can significantly enhance our offering and bring more business through our doors. It becomes a destination for those who need facilities like ours.”

Bob Tarren, Chief Marketing Officer of the Murphy Arts District, agrees that The Haywood will help achieve the goal its owners wanted.

“It’s about getting people to El Dorado,” he said. “Of course, the district is part of that, the live concerts and festivals and shows. But the city needs companies and organizations to book their events here. The conference center needs to be able to offer lodging that’s basically right next door to it. With The Haywood, they’ll have a first-class hotel to do that.”