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Haywood hotel groundbreaking brings hopes of growth

Posted on April 4, 2019

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Haywood hotel took place Wednesday, bringing city and county officials, business leaders from across the state and interested El Dorado residents to watch as Haywood stakeholders turned dirt in front of the future site of the hotel.

“I’m fascinated by the El Dorado story, because this town is filled with people who refuse to just throw up their hands and say ‘our better days are in the past’ … You have refused to do that,” said Rex Nelson, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist. “I can tell you with a straight face … this is a town of less than 20,000 now that is filled with visionaries – people that are truly visionary, that have a vision that others would not have had.”

The Haywood represents an investment of over $14 million into El Dorado. Construction began Wednesday after the groundbreaking, and the hotel is expected to open mid-May 2020.

“To our colleagues at Clark [Contractors], we really need to be open by like May 1 next year. We have a wine festival right after that,” joked Madison Murphy, chairman of Murphy USA Inc, referring to the annual Southern Food & Wine Festival.

The ceremony was held at the site of the hotel, 110 W. Locust St.; the Haywood will be located one block from the Murphy Arts District, the El Dorado Conference Center and the downtown square.

Nelson emceed the event. Other speakers included Ray Nolan, senior vice president of development for Newmark Moses Tucker, Murphy and Pierce Moore, who spoke on behalf of Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer.

Nolan said the opportunity to invest in the project was unusual, as Newmark Moses Tucker did not have plans to expand into southern Arkansas; however, it was an opportunity the company could not pass up because of El Dorado’s upward trajectory.

“It’s a totally unique place, a town of 19-18,000 doing all that they’ve done in investing in education with the Murphy Promise, investing in the arts with the Murphy Arts District … to be a part of that is just amazing,” Nolan said. “All of us want to see Arkansas do well, which means lifting up every community we can.”

Nolan named city officials and community institutions in El Dorado, Bancorp South, AMR Architects (who designed the Haywood), Clark Contractors (who will organize the Haywood’s construction), Beechwood Hospitality (who will manage the Haywood), MAD and other Newmark Moses Tucker partners as being instrumental in the Haywood hotel project.

“In the work that we do, we’re often asked to come up with some sort of vision, [but] really in this case I feel like the roles were flipped. The ownership really knew what it was that they wanted,” Nolan said.

The Haywood will consist of 70 rooms, 20 employees from the area and expects to host 22,000 guests each year. According to a press release issued at the ceremony, an estimated $250,000 in yearly sales tax revenue will be generated by the hotel, as well as up to $2.5 million in general revenue. Annual spending at local businesses by hotel guests is estimated to be $500,000.

“It will be super,” said Bill Luther, El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce CEO and president. “It is going to increase the usage of both the Conference Center and the MAD complex. We have so much business downtown, this will be very convenient. It’s a long time coming.”

Luther said he expects the Haywood to be on par with other boutique hotels around the country. Barbara Jones, South Arkansas Community College president, said having a hotel so near the Conference Center will be a boon for the facility.

“It’ll be great. We can’t (quantify) it, but we’ve had a number of information requests,” she said. “We believe with that being a part of a package, and walkability, it will allow us to book more conferences … and it will be so complimentary to everything we have in this three block [radius].”

The land the Haywood will sit on was previously owned by BancorpSouth. Bob Tarren, chief marketing officer for MAD, said the bank donated the land to MAD, who then pledged it to the Haywood developers.

“I think this hotel is the critical next step in developing the arts district … I think this will go hand in hand to market the shows and events we have,” said Pam Griffin, MAD president. “In the two years after this is built, we’ll be able to have a more robust programming which will allow us to bring a steady stream [of people] in.”

The Haywood will be the third hotel to open in El Dorado in as many years when it opens its doors in 2020. The Fairfield Inn & Suites held their grand opening in February and the Candlewood Suites held a grand opening in early 2018.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or