I got a brief telephone report from Pulaski Tech trustee Mary Jane Rebick on a board meeting today to discuss a proposal from Little Rock officials that the two-year college build its new culinary and hotel management school on a vacant lot at Sixth and Main rather than, as planned, on property at the south campus on Interstate 30.
City officials think the school could be part of a dream to revive Main Street as a place for artists, young residents and dining and entertainment venues. Pulaski Tech has $15 million in the bank for a new school and solid estimates it can build the facility for that amount in Southwest Little Rock.
Rebick said one concern was addressed today. If Pulaski Tech built the school downtown, it would be fully self-contained. Students wouldn’t have to go to other campuses for required classes. That, in turn, means more square footage and more cost, she said.
But the bigger concern is cost — perhaps $6 million more to build downtown, by one estimate.
Rebick said there was now a general understanding on both sides that the downtown location, with multiple stories and elevators on a smaller lot, would be more expensive, particularly with added classroom space. It could be as much as $3 to $4 million more, she told me. She said the city will study further on that, including possible sources of additional money. But the difference could be much greater. An estimate produced by independent consultants for the school estimated the Arkansas Culinary Institute would cost $15.4 million fully equipped on the South Campus, but $21.2 million downtown.
UPDATE: More details on the discussion from the Times‘ Cheree Franco, who was there: