Jeff Yates, the "investigator/negotiator" hired in January by the Little Rock Technology Park Authority, told the authority board today that he sees "a lot of opportunity" in the "technology corridor" along Main Street where the board is looking for property for the park, and negotiations on property could be brought to the board as soon as June.
Yates compared his research of vacant land and buildings downtown to March Madness, saying he was coming down to a "final four or two" to provide 500,000 square feet of space for the tech park. The park would most likely be spread out among various downtown parcels, involving new construction or remodels or both. A cluster of properties that would include the parking lot at the northwest corner of Fifth and Main and smaller lots in the block east across the street may be the most promising.
Yates, who is working with park consultant Charles Dilks, predicted that there would be "hurdles" when it comes to final negotiations, but told the board "you guys are very persuasive and can help owners see their way clear" to a deal. In answer to a question from board member C.J. Duvall about whether he had a rough idea of what the asking prices would be, Yates said that "the short answer" was yes, but there were variables, such as condition, to consider. "I've met a lot of pigeons lately," he said, adding that some "owners need to tighten up" their properties.
Yates suggested to the board that he bring his negotiations for several properties to members to give them leverage in making a deal.The board members, however, asked him to bring them the best property with a second best in mind kept to himself. Yates said he thought he could do that at the board's June meeting.
The board also voted to approve the negotiations for a lease of 7,968 square feet in the Block 2 building at Main and Markham streets for a business accelerator. The property would then be leased to Innovate Arkansas for the first Little Rock Ark Challenge. The lease agreement would set rent at $12 a square foot for the first year ($95,616 by my calculations), $13.50 for the second and 2 percent annual increases after that. The landlord, MIMG XXIX Block 2 LLC, will provide an allowance of $180,000 for improvements to the space; the authority needs to come up with another $10,000 to prepare the building or cut back remodeling costs by $10,000. Dr. Mary Good, chairman, suggested the board ask Verizon if it had cubicles it would give the accelerator; Verizon provided some of their surplus from their acquisition of Alltel to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter has sent a memo to the board saying it may legally draw down the money it needs from its account, board member Jay Chesshir said. Their account now stands at $4 million. The city has pledged to spend $22 million on the park from sales tax revenues.
The board went into an executive session to review eight applications it has received for tech park director. Joining them was Buckley O'Mell, who works for the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and serves as the board's amanuensis, since it has no staff. When I realized he'd gone into the meeting Noel Oman of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and I knocked on the door of the room where the board was meeting and asked O'Mell to step out or let the public in, since his attendance violated the rule on executive sessions. I'm guessing the board knew it was illegal to ask him in — to help hand them documents — and didn't care. It's a fairly loosey-goosey board, you know. O'Mell joined the rest of us outside the room where the board was meeting (in the Pulaski County Regional Building.
The board spent about 40 minutes looking at the applications and after opening the meeting up again announced they had made no decision, would ask the applicants if they could contact their references, and said they hoped to get more applications (form on website).
Dr. Mary Good, who has been the chair of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority board since its formation as a nonprofit in 2011, informed UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson in a letter Jan. 20 that she will step down March 15, it was announced at Wednesday's tech park board meeting. She said she would stay longer, if needed, until her replacement is named. /more/
Tech Park executive director Brent Birch reported to the board that in response to several inquiries from various companies about the park and when it will be open, he's been saying November or December. Construction is to begin in March. The work is to begin on the top, sixth, floor of the building, known as the Annex. Leasing will begin before the work on the building is complete. /more/
The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board this afternoon signed off, with one nay vote, on the terms of two loans totaling $17.5 million offered by a consortium of Little Rock banks led by Centennial Bank. The authority board also agreed to extend the deadline for Richard Mays to accept its offer of $845,000 for his building at 415 Main St. to noon Friday. The deadline had been noon today. /more/
The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board voted this afternoon to offer Richard Mays $845,000, the sum his appraiser reached for his building at 415 Main St., while concurrently preparing to file a condemnation lawsuit. Mays has until noon Nov. 16 to agree to the offer; otherwise, the board will proceeds with a lawsuit. /more/
It was a long Little Rock Technology Park Authority board meeting tonight, as the board took up issues of eminent domain and heard from the attorney for a credit union that has been excluded from a lending proposal to the park. /more/
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/
Here's a plug for last night's first Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame induction, a happening produced by a partnership of Arkansas Business Publishing Group and the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. /more/
A consortium of banks led by Centennial Bank has sent a letter of intent to the Little Rock Technology Park Authority to enter into "good faith negotiations" on a proposed loan of $17.5 million for the construction of Phase 1 of the tech park. Centennial would be the "Lead Lendor"; other participating banks include the Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Arvest Bank, Bear State Bank, First Security Bank, Simmons Bank and "other to be determined banks. /more/
Little Rock artist V.L. Cox is sending her found-object sculptural installation "A Murder of Crows, The End Hate Collection" to to New York for exhibition Sept. 9-Nov. 11 at The Center, which serves New York's LGBTQ community.
The Bradford Art Museum at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro is celebrating its one-year anniversary tonight with the opening of four super exhibitions of portraiture and a talk by printmaker Delita Martin, formerly of Little Rock but now living in Houston. A reception starts at 5 p.m.; Martin's talk is at 6 p.m.
By a vote of 20-3, Metroplan's Regional Planning Advisory Committee today voted against lifting the Central Arkansas transit plan's limit of six through-lanes on interstates to accommodate the state highway department's plan to widen Interstate 30.
The State Police have issued a minor clarification in what appears to be an effort to soothe an enraged Sen. Jason Rapert, exposed here as overly excited about both a Conway parking lot question from a constituent as well as some inflammatory Internet rhetoric that he's interpreted as a dire threat on his life. State cops took his reports seriously, they say. But in the end, they found nothing actionable.
On residency requirements for LRPD officers and why many of his officers choose to live outside the city, community policing, mass incarceration, juvenile justice, assault rifles and gun control and more.