Jeff Yates was selected tonight to be the “investigator/negotiator” on properties downtown suitable for the Little Rock Technology Park on a 4-3 vote of the park authority board. His company, ARK Commercial and Investment Real Estate, was chosen over Moses Tucker Real Estate. The board was able to break the tie that occurred at last Wednesday’s meeting when Dickson Flake recused because of a perceived conflict of interest with a third company responding to the board’s request for proposals, Flake and Kelley, in which his brother is a partner. Flake withdrew (as did a fourth company, Stephens & Associates Real Estate), leaving Flake free to vote.
Yates’ proposal said he would work with several partners, including architects and engineers, to identify available properties, do title searches, make environmental assessments and determine market values and purchase costs, all with an eye to creating an integrated package that would create “a sense of place.” He stressed that he would work closely with Charles Dilks, the tech board consultant, as the RFQ requires. ARK Commercial and Investment was founded last year; Yates previously was an equity partner in Irwin Partners. Prior to that he was a shareholder and vice president of Flake and Kelley, which he left in 2006, apparently putting enough space between him and Flake and Kelley to make Dickson Flake feel comfortable voting for him.
In contrast, Moses Tucker has been in business 32 years in downtown, and it is that long connection with downtown real estate that the four board members voting for the ARK (Chair Mary Good, Flake, Jay Chesshir and Bob Johnson) said could present to the public an appearance of a conflict of interest. Good also said she liked Yates’ presentation because “it was all about the vision for the park” rather than downtown as a whole.
Before the vote, Johnson said it was “a shame” both both companies could not be hired, since Yates is “more independent minded” and Moses Tucker’s record of success is “impressive.” Good told Johnson she believed the investigator role could be divided from the development role (something board member and Moses Tucker supporter Tom Butler disagreed with) and Chesshir said the board would ask Yates to consult with both Moses Tucker and Flake Kelly. (As the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Chesshir was making nice with the realtors who didn’t get the tech board business.)
Flake will draw up a contract to present to Yates.
The board also discussed again the need to hire a full-time employee to handle the day-to-day business of the park. The board will ask consultant Dilks and others for a suitable job description and take the issue up again in February.