If the Little Rock Technology Park Authority was hoping a cost estimate from its civil engineer to clear and prepare a site for a 30-acre tech park would guide its choice of three proposed areas, that hope was dashed today at the Authority board's monthly meeting. Jerry Kelso of Crafton Tull presented his company's estimates for phase 1 of the park, clearing, leveling and installing utilities: $6.3 million for the 40.8 acres encompassing the Methodist Children's Home next to UALR (area 1), $6.9 million for the 39.25 acres just south of 12th street and west of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church (area 2) and $6.8 million for the 40.8 acres south of I-630, the Forest Hills neighborhood (area 3), adjacent to the Central Arkansas Library System's children's library, under construction.
If people who want to offer up alternative sites to the Authority — which the Little Rock City Board has said the Authority board should consider over the next six months — thought it was going to be easy, their plans may have been dashed as well. The Authority board has instructed members Dickson Flake and Michael Douglas to create a form that spells out all the requirements an alternative site must meet. Will it include a five-minute drive time between partner institutions (now sometimes referred to as "owners")? Will it require 30 acres? We'll see.
Board chair Dr. Mary Good and member Jay Chessir had quite a bit of back and forth, disagreeing over how much time the board should give those who would offer alternative sites to submit their proposals to the board. Good, not surprisingly, is in a rush: she suggested mid-July as a deadline, three weeks from now. Chessir said those who will propose alternate sites will certainly need more time than that to fulfill the board's request for information on the forms ... not yet created ... by Flake and Douglas (who is out of town attending a meeting of the Association of University Research Parks in Boston) and he suggested an Aug. 1 deadline. No action was taken.
Robert Nunn, who signed up to speak at the meeting, noted Good's expressed bewilderment at the lack of trust for the board, and told her it was because the Chamber of Commerce, which does not account for its expenditure of $200,000 in city dollars it receives every year, is "deeply involved." He also pointed out that none of the board members live in neighborhoods that will be affected. "You will not be in danger of losing your homes in your affluent neighborhoods. ... How can you empathize" with those who will, he asked.
Nunn's remarks prompted Chessir to make a little speech about the $200,000 the city pays it in "consulting fees," saying some blog or another put out incorrect information on the chamber's refusal to itemize how its spent, saying the city contract with the board — for economic development — requires quarterly reporting and an annual audit and he could find it at City Hall. (See the open line item below for Max's correction of Chesshir's smear of the reporting here. In short, the documents he claims as proof of disclosure are window dressing, just like tonight's Tech Board action. This Board spit on the city board action last night and is moving full speed ahead to demolish a residential neighborhood. Any consideration of other sites will just be for show. — mb)
Dr. Creshelle Nash of UAMS College of Public Health and Ashley Bachelder, a student at both the college and the Clinton School for Public Service, presented a study students made of how tech parks have been developed in other places and the results of interviews they had with 15 randomly selected residents of the targeted neighborhoods. The park in Richmond so frequently held up as a model for Little Rock's did not take over neighborhoods but parking lots in public ownership and three houses, and did that in phases. It echoed information Douglas passed on to the board via speakerphone earlier from research park convention: He told the board that he'd learned there that "we are relatively unique in trying to establish a park in a populated area."
Other information from the Public Health/Clinton school study,"Community Views: A Service-Learning Project": African-Americans are in the majority in the three targeted areas, and a high percentage — 49 percent in the area 1, 42 percent in the area 2 and 35 percent in the area south of I-630 had attended college for a while.
It also found that houses in areas 1 and 2 both were 53 percent owner-occupied, and 44 percent owner-occupied in area 3, number the Authority board expressed some doubt in.
After the presentation, Chair Good noted that a sample of 15 people was "not enough to take to the bank," a fact Nash acknowledged, saying it was what was possible in the classroom situation. Chesser (good cop) said he was proud of the students for taking the time to do the study.
After the meeting, state Sen. Joyce Elliott expressed surprise that the board won't be doing its own research into alternate sites, rather than relying on the input of the public, which does not have the resources the board has. She noted language in Kumpuris' ordinance last night suggests the city wants the board to participate in the search for alternatives.
That ordinance states:
Section 1. The Board of Directors requests that the Central Arkansas Technology Park Authority 17 engage in a six month extensive study on the selection of a site for the park to be located. During that 18 time, the Board of Directors requests that the Authority explore possibilities for sites within the corporate 19 limits of the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, or on the campuses of the University partners, that can be 20 obtained through the use of any, or all, of its statutory powers.
It also asks the Authority to report to the city and community at the end of the six-month period the "new potential locations that meet the needs of the Authority and fulfill the spirit of this Resolution [now an ordinance]." Good hopes to have everything in the bag before then, she said.l
The Arkansas Federal Credit Union, having gotten nowhere with complaints to the publicly financed Little Rock Technology Park Authority, has complained to the city board of directors that they were unfairly cut out of a lending consortium for financing of construction in the downtown project because banks don't like credit unions.They are correct. /more/
The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board on Wednesday night heard from park Director Brent Birch that two large tech companies and several small ones are eager to move into space on Main Street that the park is negotiating to buy. However, the buiilding, the annex to the Exchange Building at the northeast corner of Fifth and Main, probably won't be ready for occupation until the last quarter of 2015, Birch said. /more/
That bomb you heard going off around noon at the Lafayette Building at Louisiana and Sixth Street was dropped by the Little Rock Downtown Partnership, in the form of a proposed design overlay district for Main Street and its neighbors. /more/
Many Arkansas schools don't have sufficiently high-speed Internet. A task force of lawmakers, education officials and business leaders recently recommended that K-12 schools use the existing fiber optic network connecting Arkansas's public universities, the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON). /more/
Brent Birch, the newly hired director of the Tech Park, will start work July 7. He'll work out of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce until the ARK Challenge wraps up at the end of the year when he'll move into the temporary space the tech park is subleasing on the first floor of the Block 2 Lofts building on Markham. /more/
The realtor looking at possible sites downtown on Main Street where the Little Rock Technology Park might build or lease says two of the four clusters in the "technology corridor" have insufficient properties available to accommodate the park. /more/
Heads up for Thursday, Oct. 27: Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery opens "Landscapes/Dreamscapes: At the Crossroads of Observation and Memory," an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Little Rock artists Jeanie Lockeby Hursley and Dominique Simmons.
If you read this week's Arts and Entertainment feature on Good Weather Gallery, you are probably wanting to know a little bit more about the show opening tomorrow, Oct. 22: Elliott Earls' "Death of a Salesman."
Lauren McCants, the Southern Salt Co. food truck founder and chef, is now serving food at the White Water Tavern Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday. On the menu: hamburgers and cheeseburgers (of course) as well as deep fried pork tenderloin sandwiches, deep fried chicken sandwiches, a smoked bologna and over-easy egg sandwich (real good, she says), chicken nachos and a special, like coconut curried chicken. There are vegetarian options, as well: Deep-fried tofu sandwiches, prepared with avocado and like a fish taco; and sweet potato and avocado tacos.
Response to our story about rehoming and adoption has been overwhelmingly positive, with one exception. Rep. Nate Bell (R-Mena) has informed me that writing this story makes me the predator and Justin Harris the victim. I'm hellbound, apparently.
The National Education Policy Center, a Colorado-based institution that is frequently opposed to the so-called "reform" movement embodied by the Walton-financed Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, has issued its 2014 Bunkum Awards, which include a grand prize to the University of Arkansas for what it believes to be flawed research.