“It’s all about programming: choreographing “spontaneous” opportunities for smart people to interact with each other. This is what separates us from traditional science parks.” –Dennis Lower, Cortex Networks, from "The Rise of Innovation Districts."
Tomorrow, the Little Rock Technology Park Authority will hear a recommendation from its "investigator/negotiator" on a park location and a report on Brookings Institution research that says urban "innovation districts" are the wave of the future for tech parks.
That "investigator," realtor Jeff Yates, said today he'll provide other options in case the board asks for recommendations other than the one he proposes. He declined to name his favored location, but said he'd given adjacent property owners a "heads up," though, as he noted, the Authority "may not build anything for 20 years." Build? I'm putting my money on a parking lot just next to KATV in the 400 block of Main Street. (If the park is building, it would be several years off, when the $22 million the city has promised from sales tax revenue has accrued.)
For the past 50 years, the landscape of innovation has been dominated by places like Silicon Valley — suburban corridors of spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation.
A new complementary urban model is now emerging, giving rise to what we and others are calling “innovation districts.” These districts, by our definition, are geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. They are also physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired and offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail.
Given Dilks' previous position that the park should be located no farther than 5 minutes from park sponsors UAMS and UALR, it's hard to know where he's going on this report. The Brookings research doesn't call the campus model — favored by members Dr. Mary Good and realtor Dickson Flake (and scotched by a 4-3 vote of the board) — passe, but notes the rise of synergistic settings in which business accelerators and university-based research start-ups operate in side by side.
The report describes three models for "innovation districts": mixed-use downtowns (Kendall Square in Cambridge, the Cortex district in St. Louis), transformed riverfront industrial areas using historic building stock (Boston’s South Boston waterfront, Seattle’s South Lake Union area) and the "urbanized science park,” where formerly isolated campuses are bringing in retail and restaurants and removing barriers between park and the surrounding area (North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park).
Yates was to make a site recommendation at last month's meeting, but said there was one property owner who was operating on his own "timetable" and not the Authority's.
The meeting starts at 4 p.m. in the Metroplan office at Broadway and Markham.
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/
In our daily video roundup, Max also talks about the Arkansas attorney general approving a ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment that would decriminalize marijuana, the Little Rock Technology Park Authority offering Brent Birch the Tech Park Director position, developers considering the old Brandon House Furniture store site for a hotel and UAMS looking for a new dean. /more/
The Little Rock Marriott has changed the look, menu and name of its restaurant, replacing Pancetta with Heritage Grille Steak and Fin. The dining area now includes a bar — moved from the lobby (where a new bar is in place) — and a larger menu.
Remember the Koch retreat at a fancy California resort that caused Tom Cotton to miss the Pink Tomato Festival in Warren. Shades of Mitt Romney. A tape of the proceedings has emerged. And it includes rich praise for Tom Cotton, particularly his votes against the interests of Arkansas farmers.
Combining the insurance systems for public school employees and state employees might help teachers with premiums in the short run, but unless it's accompanied by a big infusion of cash it will harm state employees. As for combining retirement systems for teachers and other public workers? Not happening.
Republican opposition researchers, after misfiring in efforts to targe Democrat House candidate Clarke Tucker's son, are also going after his daddy, real estate man Rett Tucker. Another misfire so far.
Insurance companies have proposed a net reduction in premiums of 2 percent next year for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The Marketplace includes all of the plans used for the private option, the state's unique plan which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans.