BY CODY GRAVES, Downtown Little Rock Magazine

Looking at the landscape of downtown Little Rock, there is one thing on the horizon that is hard to miss. It’s the Simmons Tower, and the company responsible for this structure has big plans for the downtown area.

Flake & Kelley Commercial is a real estate, property management and brokerage firm based in downtown Little Rock. With a variety of projects in the area, the company’s leadership and employees help to create new opportunities for local businesses, residents and visitors alike.

The company started out as a small brokerage firm opened by John Flake, current chairman and a partner, in 1979. In 1984, Hank Kelley, current CEO and partner, joined the company to help build its management portfolio, expand accounts and build the business.

“We really take a lot of pride in not only helping others do it — investing in property — but we are active investors in proper-ty, as well,” Kelley said. “So we try to bring people in who are compatible — clients and investors — with us to do things that will help build the community and invest in property.”

Flake & Kelley has been located downtown since its inception, Kelley said. The firm’s offices are in its largest property, the Simmons Tower, located on West Capitol Avenue. The tower was built in 1986 and is the largest private office building in the area. At 40 stories, the Simmons Tower has 625,000 square feet of office space.

“It’s been our flagship and one of our main projects for many, many years in Little Rock,” Kelley said. “This has been a real constant opportunity for us to contribute to downtown.”

One of the company’s main projects in the Simmons Tower is the business-incubation program, which allows business start-ups to lease space in the Simmons Tower with flexible lease agreements, furniture, wireless Internet service and access to conference rooms.

“We like to think, in our little way, we’re incubating; we’re helping businesses get started by lowering the barrier of entry into getting into [office] space,” he said.

Kelley said these office spaces will be a nice complement to the Little Rock Technology Park that is being developed on Main Street.

“The Tech Park is going to do a really nice job of taking care of people to a certain point,” he said. “We want to be the solution for that tech company when they are ready to move out of the Tech Park or if there’s not enough space for them between now and when the Tech Park is ready.”

A few other projects Flake & Kelley is involved with include the Rock Street Lofts, a residential development with 47 loft apartments. Kelley said this was one of the first loft developments in the city, and the space was converted from the former home of Dalton Daily & Associates office furniture.

Flake & Kelley has also created The Residences at Gracie Mansion in the Quapaw Quarter, which is a re-adapted 1840s Antebellum mansion. The Davidson building at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Louisiana Street is a mixed-use development with retail and residential spaces.

Kelley said he’s been impressed with the progress that has been made downtown recently, and there is more to come in the future. Kelley said he looks forward to the completion of the renovated Robinson Center auditorium, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2016.

“I think it will provide the downtown area with an asset that can’t be reproduced in the marketplace,” he said. “It’s unique. It adds to the quality of life, and it’s going to be a trophy as people enter the market from across the bridge. Our cultural assets are vital, and important for us to protect.”

Kelley also emphasized the expansion of the hospitality industry downtown. With several new hotels having been completed or in the planning stages, he said these businesses will help attract visitors to the area.

“It’s been really nice when our clients come in and want to meet with us — whether we’re meeting here or meeting out in the field, they like staying downtown,” he said. “It’s become an amenity to have an office here and have hospitality in proximity, along with the fine dining that goes along with that.”

As for the legacy his company has left on the area, Kelley said he hopes Flake & Kelley Commercial has left a lasting impact.

“I hope we leave a legacy that, through our investments and properties and the time we’ve spent downtown, we’ve helped advance downtown,” he said. “I like to think we’ve helped with creating a balance between work, life and play.”