Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tech park tango, part 1

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Charles Dilks, consultant to the Tech Park Authority board
  • Charles Dilks, consultant to the Tech Park Authority board

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority got a big surprise last night: Though the board chose a terrible time (7:30 p.m., apparently to accommodate chair Dr. Mary Good’s schedule) and place (the Engineering and Information Technology Building at UALR, where Good works and which was a several-block hike in the dark from the closest accessible parking lot), there was substantial turnout. So many folks showed up, in fact, that, with the exception of Good, the board members in attendance had to stand for the hour and a half question time with consultant Charles Dilks.

It’s unclear what the hearings are supposed to accomplish. Questions were asked and answered, but there was no indication that the information presented by speakers would have any effect on the park Authority board's decision.

Residents of the John Barrow neighborhood, decked out in matching T-shirts and carrying professionally printed signs declaring the Barrow site the best, were out in force, and supporters of the Collins street site downtown had a sizeable faction there as well. Speaker after speaker brought up the advantages of their preferred site; in response, Dilks repeated what he sees as a crucial drawback to all of them: They’re too far from sponsors UALR and UAMS. (Arkansas Children’s Hospital is not a sponsor, though it is contributing money to the start-up effort.)

Dr. Good nodded her head in agreement as Dilks spoke of his misgivings, an indication that — at least in her mind and probably board member Dickson Flake’s — the Authority is still looking for a way to return to three two sites in Fair Park/Oak Forest suggested in the park feasibility study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce in 2007 and the third in Forest Hills, suggested by Dickson Flake.* (It would have been surprising had Dilks, who contributed to that study, been uncritical of the alternatives.)

Though it went unremarked on, Dilks made several references to the need for the sponsor institutions to make a financial commitment to the park, as did the Angle Technology Group feasibility study, which said “the universities are the mostly likely sources” to lease at least half of the first building built at the park, with an annual “rental commitment” that would “range from $495,000 to $990,000 a year.”

UAMS’ representative on the board, Dr. Michael Douglas, and UAMS chancellor Dr. Daniel Rahn have said that beyond its $125,000 pledge to start-up help, its only capital investment in the park will be “intellectual.”

Skeptics of the tech park have long suspicioned that the promised "public-private partnership" rested almost entirely on a public investment, through $22 million in city sales tax money already and then an untold future amount, perhaps $30 million or more, from state institutions. The rising dominance of legislative fiscal hawks complicated that scenario already.

This morning, Dilks told the Times that as a matter of best practices, “sponsoring universities have to take leadership” in launching tech parks, in the form of “financial commitment, to space or providing land, and importantly putting activities in the park that are particularly attractive.” Ideally, UAMS and UALR would commit to a new research institute, but, he added, “as to what would make sense here, it would depend on the site.” Alternatively, the sponsors would have to attract a “big non-profit or major corporate sponsor,” which has yet to happen.

Last night, Dilks lamented that the land around the downtown site was unattractive, prompting Rett Tucker, a broker for the downtown parcel, to observe that “everything east of I-30 looked bad until a guy named Bill Clinton put his library there,” a move quickly followed by Heifer International’s headquarters. Later, Jim Moses, Tucker’s partner, noted former Acxiom chief Charles Morgan’s satisfaction with his decision to move his technology company downtown, where, Moses said, neighborhood of “world-class organizations” would surround the tech park.

Morgan, a friend of Good’s, is reportedly lobbying her for selection of the downtown site.

Pamela Brown Courtney, the realtor for the John Barrow site, told Dilks that his concern over the cost of site acquisition — the highest among the four — could be allayed. “We are negotiable,” she said. “We want a win-win.”

The Fair Park Residents Association last week sent a letter to Good saying that it would consider agreeing to housing the park if the Authority would commit to HUD rules on fair compensation for homeowners or renters who would have to move. W.J. Monagle, who lives at 1508 S. Taylor, said the letter, which has gotten some blowback from residents who didn’t attend the residents association at which the vote was taken to send the letter, “under no circumstances … represent my views.” He said there's a premium on middle income and affordable housing and urged "let's not destroy the neighborhoods we have like that."

There will be another public hearing at 5 p.m. today in the Legends Room of the Jack Stephens Center at UALR. Lots of parking there.

* The Angle report suggested a third site just west of the Forest Hills neighborhood, but Flake substituted Forest Hills for the Angle report site.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Metroplan board OKs money for I-30, but not I-30

    After hearing a presentation by the Little Rock Coalition of Neighborhoods asking that it "be doubtful about the costs" of the $631.7 million 30 Crossing project, the Metroplan Board of Directors today approved an amendment to its 2016-2020 transportation improvement plan to include the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department's budget for widening I-30.
    • May 25, 2016
  • Consultants to city: Get MOU from AHTD on I-30

    Consultants hired by the city to advise on downtown planning now that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department plans to widen Interstate 30 told the City Board today that it ought to enter into an agreement with the AHTD to insure the city has a "place at the table" before and during the project's "design-build" phase.
    • May 23, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Mailer highlights Jason Rapert's record; Acxiom founder joins in

    A women's voter education group is dropping a mailer today that highlights Sen. Jason Rapert's legislative record. It happens to appear at the same time as a tough letter to the editor about Rapert by Acxiom co-founder Jerry Adams. Can Faulkner County voters be moved?
    • Oct 24, 2014
  • Justin and Marsha Harris: We have "suffered a severe injustice"

    Rep. Justin Harris and his wife, Marsha, have issued a statement through their lawyer in advance of tomorrow afternoon's press conference, at which Harris is expected to offer comment on the rehoming of their adopted daughters at a home where they were subsequently sexually abused.
    • Mar 5, 2015
  • Pat Hays' NRA membership riles Republicans

    Democratic 2nd District Congress candidate Pat Hays is causing conniption fits among Republicans because a new TV ad shows him with his guns and mentions his long-time membership in the National Rifle Association.
    • Oct 27, 2014

Most Shared

  • Trump show

    The first thing to understand is that before it's a presidential election, it's a TV program. To the suits at CNN, NBC and Fox News, that means it's about ratings and money. So of course they're going to play it as a cliffhanger.
  • Brantley: Free lunch Asa

    Gov. Hutchinson has just proved there is a free lunch. Thanks to the recent special legislative session, he can have his money, dodge accountability and claim it's good government.
  • Planned Parenthood: more than abortion

    IUDs, LGBT care, STI treatment — there's a whole alphabet of services at clinics.
  • The Mansion takeover: Of course it was Hutchinson's idea

    Of course the take over of the Governor's Mansion by Asa Hutchinson was his idea, not that of legislators who claimed credit. And the reason portends changes in historic appearance and use of what was once the people's mansion.
  • Truth, not Trump

    The rationalists in both parties and the nonpartisan public have little time left to sort out Donald Trump and his magic with the lusty crowds that show up for his rallies, hang on his tweets, follow his Fox News gabfests and give him outsized votes in the primaries.

Most Viewed

  • Governor's Mansion rolls on: Takeover was all about control

    Still more evidence mounts that control was the reason for legislation by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to strip the Governor's Mansion Commission of its power. Read more about the Hutchinson families artistic disagreements and also their desire to reduce public access to the building, including the Grand Hall built for that purpose.
  • An open line: Plus what's wrong with Kansas and Ole Miss?

    The open line includes news elsewhere — the failure of trickle-down economics in Kansas and football fraud with Arkansas angles at Ole Miss.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation