Little Rock Technology Park will level homes 

But where exactly?

There are many questions about the technology park that Little Rock tax dollars are helping build somewhere between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Where exactly will it be? Who will locate there? Who besides the taxpayers will pay for it? Will it succeed in generating jobs and inventions and royalties for its sponsoring institutions? If so, when?

But one thing's for sure: Because the Technology Park Authority has limited potential locations to residential areas minutes away from UAMS and UALR, people are going to lose their homes. Some of those people have lived in the three areas under consideration, all south of Interstate 630, for 25 years. The Authority has the right to exercise eminent domain, and those who don't negotiate a sale price with the Authority will be taken to court.

It's not just homes standing in the way of what the Authority board of directors promises will be progress. The Methodist Children's Home campus occupies the greater part of one of the three areas under consideration for the park. Another area wraps around an elementary school and a church and includes homes newly remodeled with federal grants meant to revitalize neighborhoods. The third — now mapped at 65 acres — could require removal of 272 occupied houses should the Authority decide to clear the entire area.

Each of the areas has its strengths and disadvantages, relating to access to highways, number of houses that will have to go and effect on traffic patterns. The civil engineering firm Crafton Tull has been hired by the Authority board to assess the three; its work is expected to be done in six months.

In the meantime, residents and organizations concerned about losing land are girding for battle. "Not For Sale" signs are going up in the Forest Hills neighborhood south of Interstate 630. The University District Partnership, a department of technology park sponsor UALR, has asked the Authority to exempt the parcel that would surround Good Counsel Catholic Church on 12th Street on three sides from consideration. The Methodist Children's Home, contiguous to land owned by UALR, is keeping mum, but its leadership notes recent investment in campus refurbishment.

Adding insult to injury is that the Authority's seven-member board — a public body created by state law and which will receive $22 million in taxpayer dollars — has no staff and is operated out of the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, where two on staff have been handling park-related questions from the public. There was initial reluctance on the part of the chamber staff, apparently unclear on the state Freedom of Information law, to provide to the public the documents submitted by engineering firms in response to a request for proposals. A public meeting to select the firm from among five bidders was loosey-goosey, with only three members of the board — one of them on a phone — attending. They ranked the bidders, added their rankings to those provided by the absent members, announced the winner and tossed the ballots, so it is impossible to know how each board member ranked the bidders.

Asked when the board would hire a staff, Dickson Flake, a prominent commercial realtor who has emerged as the board's spokesman, said it would be some time in the future, when the park is built; the Authority hasn't got the budget to afford staff. The Authority's website, lrtechpark.com, went live this week; it includes links to the ANGLE feasibility study commissioned by the chamber, legislation and meeting information.

The only cash the Authority has in hand is $150,000 in seed funding, coming in equal contributions of $25,000 from UAMS, UALR, Arkansas Children's Hospital and the city and $50,000 from the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. UAMS, UALR, ACH and the city have pledged to provide another $100,000 each, for a total seed fund of $550,000.


Speaking of...

  • Little Rock Tech Park announces first tenants

    December 6, 2016
    The Little Rock Tech Park announced its first tenants at a press conference at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce this morning /more/
  • 'Comfortable' with interest in Tech Park leases, board chair says

    August 10, 2016
    Interest in leasing space in the Little Rock Technology Park under construction in the 400 block of Main Street is a "comfortable amount" for this stage in the project, Authority board chair Kevin Zaffaroni said today at the board's monthly meeting. He declined to say how many floors of the first building to open, at 417 Main St., that comfortable amount might include, since no leases are final. /more/
  • Another yes for the Wide Misery. UPDATE: Make that two ayes

    April 27, 2016
    The Little Rock Technology Park board today endorsed the Arkansas Highway Department's split-diamond C/D design for Interstate 30 contingent on a change in the design of Capitol. /more/
  • Stephens maintains rights to Metrocentre asset

    April 21, 2016
    Now that the Stephens properties on Main Street and Fifth have been sold to The Little Rock Technology Park, what is Stephens' share in the Metrocentre Improvement District assets, I wondered as I wrote yesterday's item on the potential sale of  Henry Moore's "Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge." /more/
  • Tech Park chair Mary Good to step down

    February 11, 2016
    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 to buy first property on Friday

    February 3, 2016
    The Little Rock Technology Park plans to close Friday on its first purchases of real estate: 5 Main Place at Fifth and Main streets, the Annex Building at 417 Main, the Mays Building at 415 Main St., the parking lot between the Mays Building and the KATV-Ch. 7 building (referred to as the Center Theater lot, because that is where the theater stood before Stephens interests had it demolished), the parking lot on the west side of Main between Fourth and Fifth, the old Stephens Inc. offices on Fifth Street, and the Keith parking at Scott and Fifth Street. /more/
  • Tech park construction start estimate: March 8

    December 9, 2015
    Chad Young, an architect with Wittenberg Deloney and Davidson, presented the firm's preliminary drawings for the first phase of the Little Rock Tech Park construction: renovation of 42,000 square feet in buildings at 415 and 417 Main St. The presentation included a timeline that should a construction start date of March 8. /more/
  • Tech park agrees to terms of $17.5 million from consortium

    November 16, 2015
    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/
  • Tech Park: Yes to Mays' appraisal for Main Street property: Clarification

    November 2, 2015
    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/
  • New appraisal on Main: No need for eminent domain?

    October 28, 2015
    The Little Rock Technology Park Authority has received an updated appraisal of 415 Main St., a two-story, 10,020-square-foot office building owned by lawyer Richard Mays, that puts its value at $670,000. /more/
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