The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board on Thursday night heard from park Director Brent Birch that two large tech companies and several small ones are eager to move into space on Main Street that the park is negotiating to buy. However, the building, the annex to the Exchange Building at the northeast corner of Fifth and Main, probably won’t be ready for occupation until the last quarter of 2015, Birch said.
Two of the companies, which Birch said were software companies, each want a floor, roughly 6,000 square feet on each, and the others want part of floors of the 30,000-square-foot annex owned.
The park will have to come up with roughly $17.5 million to buy the annex and other properties it wants for the park, most of which are owned by Warren Stephens. Because they are developed, the annex and Exchange Building account for most of that cost, Birch said. The park board wants to acquire at one time all properties: the block-long parking lot on the west side of the 400 block of Main, opposite the Exchange Building, the entire block that includes the Exchange Building (Fourth to Fifth and Main to Scott) and a lot at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main.
Tech Park Authority board member Dickson Flake produced what he called a “model” development plan — one not set in stone — that would include five phases of building. The first phase, the acquisition of the properties, would also include other costs, such as demolition and remediation ($1.45 million), surface parking, general construction ($7.8 million), architectural and engineering fees and furnishings, for a cost of $31,511,500, which would be spent over a period of several years.
Phase II would include a $22.5 million, 30,000-square-foot new parking deck for 800 cars, something Flake said the park needed to “get out in front of” even before demand exists to make sure the park isn’t scrambling down the road to provide parking. Phase III would include construction totaling 192,000 square feet at the southeast corner of Fourth and Main (the KATV building and an adjoining eight-story building) for $52.8 million, Phase IV would include construction of six-story, 74,000 square feet building (laboratory space) at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main for $27.75 million and Phase V would be construction of an eight-story, 308,000-square-foot office building on the block-long parking lot on Main for $84.7 million. The entire project totals in the model are around $250 million. It is, of course, a model and not an actual budget, Flake assured board member Tom Butler, the UAMS representative.
The Exchange Building is leased to the State Department of Higher Education, which would keep its lease and provide revenues for the park.
Jim Church, vice president of KATV owner Sinclair, asked the board what the tech park’s timeline was on the KATV building, since it needs 18 to 24 months to relocate. Board Chair Dr. Mary Good replied that they’d let him know when the board knew.
Board member Jay Chesshir asked Birch to organize an event that would publicize the companies currently operating in the park’s space at 107 Markham, where the Arkansas Venture Center is now located and which has space available for lease. Chesshir said he’d like to time the event to coincide with an announcement to be made of other new business, which he did not disclose but which he indicated with his hand would be an announcement from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, which he heads.