“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.
The Arkansas Venture Center will be the Little Rock Technology Park's tenant in its temporary space in the Block 2 Building on Markham, where it will offer its pre-accelerator and incubation programs for early-stage businesses and its coding classes. Brent Birch, director of the park, said the arrangement will sustain the current momentum of interest in tech startups while the Tech Park works toward a permanent home and "show the tech park is happening." /more/
That bomb you heard going off around noon at the Lafayette Building at Louisiana and Sixth Street was dropped by the Little Rock Downtown Partnership, in the form of a proposed design overlay district for Main Street and its neighbors. /more/
The Root Cafe has won a $150,000 Mission Main Street Grant awarded by Chase bank. A formal presentation of the check will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the cafe. The restaurant was one of 20 winners in the national grant program for small businesses.
If you can't get to the Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (something I have longed to do), you can at least experience Penland at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where "The Penland Experience" exhibition features work by nearly 50 artists who have taught or been students there, open now through Feb. 26.
"March: Book One," the best-selling collaboration between North Little Rock native Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin, was one of 2013's best-received graphic novels, and today the follow-up, "March: Book Two," has been released by Top Shelf.
Judge Leon Holmes has awarded $1.25 million in damages in a default judgment against a company doing business as thedirty.com, a gossip website operated by Nik Richie. The company that operates the website later said the Little Rock attorney sued the wrong company.