The Little Rock Technology Park has stepped in it several times in recent weeks.
First there was the politically motivated decision by a lending group led by a relative of the Tech Park director to prevent a credit union from participating in the profits of lending to the tech park because banks don’t like credit unions.
Then the Tech Park Board said, essentially, “Hey, nothing we can do about it. They’re just a contractor.” And if a contractor decides to discriminate against someone on ground of gender, race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation, that presumably, too, would be the contractor’s decision, not the Tech Park’s?
Now, Leslie Peacock has reported, a Main Street land owner isn’t happy about the price offered for his office building to convert to taxpayer-subsidized Tech Park space. The Tech Park is talking about using eminent domain to take the property. Eminent domain is kind of an oath in Republican-era Arkansas, but not when the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce has business to do and you’re standing in its way. Jay Chessir, the chamber executive who led the campaign for the city sales tax that so far has provided the only meaningful money for this dream, seemed to indicate a condemnation case now might be a good thing, to establish the authority’s ability to condemn as needed once and for all. (Think about it. This gang could condemn land ANYWHERE in Little Rock they wanted.)
Now let’s take a look at some interesting numbers.
The Tech Park earlier bought land owned by the Stephens financial empire for the park for $11.6 million. Tax records show that property is currently appraised at $8.438 million. The assessor’s office defended the lower appraisal, saying it was due to be upgraded because of all the huge interest in downtown property.Some significant vacant hulks nearby belie that notion, but, yes, there have been some positive developments.
So then. What of the property currently in dispute at 415 Main Street, owned by lawyer Richard Mays and occupied by his law firm? The Tech Park has appraised it at $470,000 to $530,000. Mays reportedly isn’t happy with the figure. I can see why.
Records in the Pulaski assessor’s office shows he’s paying taxes on the property based on an assessor’s appraisal of $651,250.
In short, Dickson Flake, the godfather of the Tech Park and a downtown developer and property manager himself, has proposed giving Mays $47 to $53 a square foot while he thought more than $100 a square foot was proper for the Stephens property.
So the best offer from the Tech Park for Mays’ building is more than 18 percent less than its valuation for tax purposes. On the Stephens property, the Tech Park came up with a price 37 percent higher than the appraisal for tax purposes.
Yeah, if I was Richard Mays I’d be holding out for more, too. But I’d perhaps not be so genial as Mays reportedly has been. I might have a few words about credibility, or lack thereof.
Which reminds me: I heard recently from a Little Rock native who’s made a tidy living as a high-tech researcher in a land faraway. He keeps up with his former home via the Arkansas Blog. He’s interested in the Tech Park, because he works in scientific research and startup ventures. Some of his comments to me seem worth sharing, though I’m sure the mayor and chamber would dismiss them as unauthoritative:
Staying alive in research is not easy, and the people competing successfully for funding for research are some serious big dogs. I do love Arkansas, but Arkansas does not have the infrastructure to recruit and retain the people good enough to build and survive, in my humble opinion. Either the people leading that charge don’t know what a major league curveball looks like, or they do know and are simply planning to siphon off funds. Either way, I refer you to the philosophical comments on the rich and the poor stated so eloquently by King in “Platoon.”
… Brains, recruited by support and visionary leadership, but lots of bucks are necessary for success. Big-time research is not cheap, and little-time research is seldom viable or sustainable. You familiar with the legend of Cassandra?
I’m not sure my correspondent had this particular King quote from “Platoon” in mind, but it seems relevant. It’s a response to why a college-educated kid said he’d decided to go to war because the poor kids seemed to bear too much of the burden:
Shit. You gotta be rich in the first place to think like that. Everybody know the poor are always being fucked over by the rich. Always have, always will.
Reviewing King quotes from the movie, I also liked this one should the LR C of C ever ask you out to dinner:
[Watching the ambush party leave into the jungle] I’m glad I ain’t going with them. Somewhere out there is the beast and he hungry tonight.