A hotel brand that started in Louisville is growing — with a new hotel planned in Arkansas.
Since 21C Museum Hotel opened in 2006 on Louisville’s Main Street, company founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson have decided to expand to other cities. Two hotels are being developed in Austin, Texas, and Cincinnati, Ohio. And Tuesday the founders announced plans to open a 21C Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas, sometime in 2012.
“The art exhibits that we mount in Louisville will be able to travel to the other sites,” Wilson says, “so Louisville will become a testing ground, a learning facility.”
Wilson says he wants for Louisville’s 21C Museum Hotel to work with all 21C Museum Hotels.
“21C Louisville will, I think, will become a training ground or where we’ll begin to learn who on our staff has leadership qualities,” he says.
The Arkansas hotel is also being funded through heirs of Sam Walton, who founded Wal-Mart. It will be within walking distance of Wal-Mart headquarters and a Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, now under construction.
Wilson says the Bentonville’s plans to open the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in the next few years will create economic growth in the city and an opportunity for businesses related to tourism. That was the idea he and Brown had before they opened Louisville’s 21C Museum Hotel with the belief that art could spur economic activity.
“The Crystal Bridges Museum will trigger economic development, new jobs, new taxes, new restaurants, new hotels,” Wilson says. “It’s going to be a major boon for the state of Arkansas.”
The $150 million Crystal Bridges Museum is financed in large part by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. Wilson says the budget for of Bentonville’s planned 130-room 21C Museum Hotel is $28 million.
PHOTO: Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown. Courtesy 21C Museum Hotel.