The three finalists in the Little Rock Technology Park’s search for an architect to design the next phase of park development — a six-story, 100,000-square-foot building on the empty lot between the park, at 417 Main St., and the KATV, Channel 7, building at 401 Main — presented to the board this afternoon.
After hearing from Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, Witsell Evans Rasco Architects/Planners and Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson Architects, the board decided to hold a conference call meeting next Tuesday to get input from Tech Park Director Brent Birch and to discuss issues raised by the firms, such as what LEED rating the park should seek, etc.
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The new building is to include both office and laboratory space, which WER’s David Sargent described as the greatest design challenge, given the different structural needs of labs and flexible office design. Polk Stanley’s Wesley Walls saw the construction of the building — between two historic buildings in the middle of downtown with no wiggle room on either side — as the project’s most trying issue. WD & D’s Chad Young raised a third point: the cost of getting power to the building, which it said could be “significant.” Young also said it would be a benefit if the Tech Park could include the KATV building within phase 2, since that would save the park construction dollars in the long run. The park is not close to deciding how to deal with the building — which it doesn’t own, is on the National Historic Register and has its own structural problems — so board member Kevin Zaffaroni steered discussion away from that possibility.
While all the presentations took different tacks — with Polk Stanley pointing to its award-winning designs and experience, WER going deep into the weeds on how the park could fund its energy installation and WD&D noting that it helped the park find a site and also designed the extremely tricky renovation of the park’s first two buildings — all spoke of a need to appeal millennials in the design and to make a statement that would reflect well on Little Rock.
WER gave the most comprehensive presentation on the issues that laboratory construction will involve, the chief concern of board member Nancy Gray, the president of Bioventures LLC at UAMS. Dickson Flake said keeping a stable team of architects on a project that could take a long time to realize was an issue; he received reassurances on that score from the architects.
The board will vote after the conference call. The Freedom of Information Act requires that it make its votes public. It hopes to enter into a contract in January. There is, as yet, no set budget for the building. You can read the RFP that sets out criteria for the architects here.