Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tech park to seek loan to buy Stephens properties

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2015 at 8:40 PM

Though the original idea was to get the Little Rock Technology Park off the ground without debt, the park authority today heard from board member Dickson Flake that it will need to get financing to buy the properties it wants on Main Street.

Warren Stephens Inc., which who, doing business as Five Main LLC and DMT Ventures LLC, owns the Exchange Building at the northeast corner of Fifth and Main, the Annex Building next door and parking lots across the street and next to the KATV building at Fourth and Main, wants to sell the properties at one time, but the city will only disburse to the authority $6.8 million, the amount accrued so far of the $22 million the city projected the 2011 sales tax increase would raise for the park in 10 years. Stephens agreed to sell for the appraised value of the properties, or $11.6 million, Park Director Brent Birch said.

The loan will also have cover the purchase price of the Mays law firm building, located between the Stephens properties on the east side of Main, and a parking lot at Fourth and Main owned by the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System, where the laboratory facility is planned to be built. The anticipated total of $30 million will incude funds to renovate the Annex for immediate occupation by tech park companies. The five-story, 29,000-square-foot building is vacant.

Besides the $6.8 million in equity, the park would pledge revenues from rent from the Exchange Building, currently leased by the state Department of Higher Education, and parking lot fees, in addition to future rents, to retire the debt. The city could not legally pledge future tax revenues, the board was advised by City Attorney Tom Carpenter, because it cannot hold future elected city board members to such a pledge. The city will provide a memorandum of understanding that it will provide shuttle service and convey air and alleyway rights. An MOU is not binding, Birch said, will help by "but getting everybody on the same page." 

Birch said he expects the board will have by week from next Friday a figure on what is needed for annex renovation and a draft of the financing request to circulate to banks. Birch said the authority hopes to have a contract to buy the properties executed by the fall, to meet a deadline set by Stephens, and then close at the beginning of 2016. 

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