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Groundwork – previously the Northwest Arkansas workforce housing center – today announced its first investment in an attainable housing development to be constructed in Springdale. The development is supported by a $6.75 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

The project, dubbed “Big Emma” by its planners, is a 77-unit mixed-income apartment development located on Emma Avenue in downtown Springdale. The investment from Groundwork ensures 30 of the units will be permanently reserved for households earning below the area median income in Northwest Arkansas.

“Northwest Arkansas’ rapid growth has caused housing to become increasingly inaccessible for the region’s workers and their families,” said Duke McLarty, Groundwork executive director. “While growth is great news for the economy, more must be done to ensure there are adequate housing options for the workers that make up the fabric of the community. Groundwork’s first investment in downtown Springdale will serve as a model for future projects to provide more affordable housing options near core city centers.”

“Big Emma” is centrally located on the corner Emma Avenue and Park Street in Springdale. The development is in close proximity and walkable to other important amenities like grocery stores, health clinics, pharmacies, and recreation opportunities like Luther George Park, the Razorback Regional Greenway and The Jones Center. Designed by BiLd Architects, the mixed-use development will include a ground-floor coffee shop.

“The Big Emma development will be a great addition to other significant investments happening across Springdale’s vibrant downtown district,” said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse. “As one of the fastest-growing communities in the state, the City looks forward to working with Groundwork and others to ensure there is enough high-quality housing for all who choose to call Springdale home.”

The project will be managed by Community Development Northwest Arkansas to ensure perpetual affordability and to maintain tenant income compliance for the workforce units. The project was originally commissioned by Shiloh Capital, an investment fund owned by Springdale natives Ken Hall, Don Harris and Tom Lundstrum. The group also developed “Little Emma” less than a block away.

“Permanently affordable housing is crucial to providing homes for teachers, nurses and other workers we all depend on,” said Robert Burns, Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program director. “Big Emma will be a model for the region, ensuring Northwest Arkansas remains a great place to live and thrive.”

The announcement was made at the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Annual Meeting held at the Momentary.

The Council launched the workforce housing center in 2021 because of its long history of championing community-driven solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges. To more closely align with the organization’s stated goals, the Council unveiled a new brand and name change from the Northwest Arkansas workforce housing center to Groundwork.

“The name change better reflects the mission and vision of the organization,” said McLarty. “Through strategic regional leadership, expertise and resources to strengthen communities, Groundwork is building the foundation for what the future of housing will look like in Northwest Arkansas.”

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Special thanks to our major investors for their support of the Northwest Arkansas Council and our work in the region: