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Monday, July 2, 2012

A pitch made for downtown site for Tech Park

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 9:08 AM

TECH PARK PROPOSAL: Downtown institutions have a new idea.
  • Kai Caddy
  • TECH PARK PROPOSAL: Downtown institutions have a new idea.

More Little Rock Technology Park News this morning.

I've just received a copy of a letter from officials of Heifer International, the Clinton Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Public Service and Acxiom Corp. and a leader of the Moses-Tucker real estate firm suggesting a 10-acre site on Interstate 30 between Sixth and Eigth Streets for the park.

This would add to the neighborhood in which the advocates for the site have made significant investments in recent years.

The letter went Friday to Mayor Mark Stodola and Mary Good, chair of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board.

It would require relocation of, at most, one residential triplex, the letter says, thus saving a significant portion of the $9 million estimated for land acquisition cost that could be used for additional land purchases. Asking price for the 10-acre parcel is $3.6 million. The Tech Park has talked about a larger site, though it isn't going to develop a full project at once. There's an additional 30 acres of adjacent commercial and industrial land in the neighborhood for expansion, backers of this idea say. The one residential parcel is rented on a month to month basis and reportedly turns over frequently, so attrition should eventually leave it vacant.

The property was acquired by World Services for the Blind, but a plan to build a new headquarters there isn't going to materialize.

Here's the letter sent today by Pierre Ferrari, CEO of Heifer; Stephanie Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation; Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School; Jerry Jones of Acxiom, and Rett Tucker of Moses-Tucker.

The letter quotes UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn as saying a "five-minute" rule for distance between UALR and UAMS and the facility is not essential, as a consultant on the tech park idea has written. The site would provide easy access and be highly visible in a "dynamic" corridor of development, the letter noted, in addition to ending divisiveness over residential home acquisition, perhaps by eminent domain.

The Authority Board has said it plans to pick the best of three residential neighborhood sites and then take suggestions for other locations, though, to date, it has shown little inclination to waver on a preference for property very close to both UALR and UAMS.

RELATED: An article in The Atlantic on successful development of a tech-oriented neighborhood in London. These assets cited for the emergence of a cluster of tech firms:

• Amenities and ‘vibe’

• Similar/complementary firms

• Branding and messaging

• Cheap space

• Proximity to central London

• Connectivity – to the rest of London and UK

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