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Thursday, December 6, 2012

TGIThursday, our open line

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 4:42 PM

Here's your open line for the evening and a bit about how I spent the afternoon: Riding to the four potential sites for the Little Rock Technology Park with members of the board that will choose the site. Board consultant Charles Dilks recommended the four without much enthusiasm, since he contributed to a previous study that suggested it be located in the neighborhoods between tech park sponsors UALR and UAMS. Realtors for the sites met with the board at each stop to give their spiel.

None of the board members were particularly verbal about their feelings on the sites, though there was some praise for the Verizon building on the Arkansas River, which has breathtaking views and a suitable "chase" for ventilation for the wet labs that would be on the top floor, board member Dr. Michael Douglas observed. The 212,000-square-foot building is about twice the size the Authority was planning to build, but the lower floors could be leased and eventually expanded into. Member Dickson Flake, who said he now times distances to and from his destinations whenever he gets in a car because of the consultant's recommended 5-minute drive time from park to sponsoring organizations UAMS and UALR, said the drive from the Verizon building to UAMS is 6 and a half minutes. The lease rate on the building is $65 a square foot, but a sale price is negotiable, realtor Hank Kelley said.

Douglas said he was impressed with the John Barrow Road site, 30 wooded acres across from the McMath Library. City Director Doris Wright, who represents Ward 6, acted as tour guide for the group, showing them the neighborhood as well as the site. Flake was impressed with the organization of the supporters of the site, owned by Pam Brown Courtney; large supportive signs abound up and down John Barrow and Courtney has created a website touting why the site would be good for the park and why the park would be good for the neighborhood. The topography, however, could be a problem; the land is below John Barrow and Parkview High School (located on a high spot on the road) and there's a natural pond in the middle. Courtney is having a topographic map drawn up for the Authority, and she wouldn't disclose a price, saying it was negotiable.

Flake also had flood plain concerns about the periphery of the University and Asher site, which would include the shopping center at the southeast corner and acreage south and east of the shopping center. The site is between Rock Creek and Coleman Creek, feeders of Fourche Creek on the south. Board members were largely mum on the fourth site, at 7th and Collins east of Interstate 30, which would please them more if it had Ninth Street frontage. Jimmy Moses, the realtor for the Collins street location, noted that the southern frontage of the site, on 8th Street between College and Collins, is a high point (which is why the historic Woodruff House was built right across the street) and would give the park great visibility from downtown.

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