When Walmart moved into its current headquarters in 1971–a converted warehouse in Bentonville, Arkansas–it was still a young retailer, operating in just five states. Today, Walmart has more than 11,000 stores worldwide, along with millions of associates that serve hundreds of millions of customers every day.
Suffice it to say, nearly 50 years later, we know that one giant building filled with endless fluorescent lighting and blue cubicles isn’t the most productive way to manage the world’s biggest retail chain. The dated floor plan of a conventional office building also isn’t in line with the retail brand’s contemporary reinvention as a digitally savvy, design-powered, future-forward Amazon hunter.
That’s why Walmart is investing in a brand-new campus, which the retail giant publicly announced today. The complex of buildings, set across 350 acres of native-seeded greenery in Bentonville, will create a new hub for 10,000 people on Walmart’s central office team.
“I think the most important thing is how this is really giving our associates a new experience,” says Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield. “Nature, sustainable living, new food options, destination dining throughout the campus. Really, that improved experience that also embraces the beauty of the area.”
Based on the early details, Walmart’s campus looks something like Nike’s, which opened in 1990 in Beaverton, Oregon, and features buildings dotted around a network of running trails. Likewise, the focus of Walmart’s new headquarters will be the vast green space outside its walls, intended to pull people outside, featuring hiking and biking trails that integrate directly into those within the area. “It’s meant to be open and invite the community and our neighbors to use the campus,” says Hatfield.
There are at least a dozen architecture and design firms attached to the project–though Walmart is not disclosing who those teams are. The buildings promise the sorts of amenity talking points you hear about in Silicon Valley, presumably to help the company recruit new talent. The new headquarters’s planned design features a more open floor plan with lots of private nooks to work flexibly, generous natural light, several dining options, and daycare and fitness facilities on campus. This won’t be a completely carbon neutral project, but it will feature local mass timber buildings, and parking garages will be topped with solar panels.
Demo on the new headquarters will begin this summer, and construction will begin over the next 18 to 24 months. Buildings will open in phases started in 2020, and it will house up to 17,000 employees when finished in 2024. And it seems they’re all getting a major upgrade from their old, cubicle-loaded warehouse.