Site backers tell tech park board of advantages to view the Verizon Property Presentation presented by Hank Kelley, Bill Pendergist and London Grandison with Flake & Kelley Commercial. to view the Village Shopping Center Property Presentation presented by Hank Kelley, Buckley O’Mell and London Grandison with Flake & Kelley Commercial.

A low construction cost, proximity to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, an already constructed building and the potential pull of a former U.S. president were among the competing selling points offered Wednesday by representatives of four sites being considered for a planned Little Rock technology park.

The potential influence of former President Bill Clinton to attract companies was part of the pitch by Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, to locate the park on a site near the school and the Clinton Presidential Center.

“There is a big advantage to being in Bill Clinton’s neighborhood,” Rutherford said at a meeting of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board.

The board is planning a technology park that backers hope will provide a home to companies willing to partner in developing research resulting from the city’s medical and educational institutions.

In addition to the 10-acre site east of Interstate 30, the other sites under consideration are a 12-story building that was once part of Alltel Corp.’s headquarters, the Village Shopping Center at Asher and University avenues, and a tract of vacant land on John Barrow Road near Interstate 630.

The sites were chosen by the board in October from among 23 proposals, most of them submitted by commercial developers.
Representatives of each of the four sites made 15-minute presentations to the board Wednesday at a meeting at the Jack Stephens Center on the UALR campus.

Afterward, the board voted to spend up to $10,000 on engineering studies of each site. Chairman Mary Good also asked the site representatives to submit information on the potential selling prices for the properties. The board also agreed that it would tour each site.

The site advocated by the Clinton School is owned by World Services for the Blind. It is bounded by East Sixth Street, East Eighth Street, College Street and Collins Street.

The site is currently occupied by a few stores and businesses that lease space on a month-to-month basis, developer Rett Tucker said.

Rutherford said Heifer International, Acxiom Corp. and the Clinton School are among entities in the area that could help attract businesses to a technology park.

The area’s restaurants and hotels as well as the eStem Charter Schools would also be a draw, he said.

“The renaissance area for Little Rock is downtown,” Rutherford said.

Representatives of the Alltel and Barrow Road sites also cited the restaurants and other businesses surrounding their favored locations.

Proponents of the Village Shopping Center site noted that it would be within walking distance of UALR. If it located there, said Hank Kelley, chief executive of Flake & Kelley Commercial, the technology park could eventually acquire a total of about 30 acres for development, which would include the shopping center.

The site is also near 53 acres of wetlands at the former Coleman Dairy, which Kelley said could also be an asset.

Kelley’s firm also pitched the former Alltel building, which includes 212,000 square feet of space that the authority could lease or buy.

The building includes six high-speed elevators, and equipment could also be included in a purchase, he said.

“The finishes in these buildings are second to none,” he said.
Kelley said, however, that any space for chemical laboratories would have to be added to the building.

Good noted that it would likely to be expensive to add such space to a high-rise building. Representatives of Kelley’s firm also said the building’s occupant would have to add a new heating and cooling system at a cost of about $1.3 million.

Kelley said the 14-acre Village Shopping Center property is worth about $4 million, and space in the former Alltel building, which is owned by Verizon Wireless, is worth about $65 per square foot. Space in the building could also be leased for about $19.75 per square foot annually, he said.

Representatives of the other sites did not have price estimates Wednesday.

Pam Brown Courtney, owner of the site on John Barrow Road, said the price for her property would be “something you can afford, I promise you that.”

Proponents of the John Barrow site noted that the authority would not have to demolish any buildings before starting construction on the 37.5-acre tract of vacant land.

They also touted the site’s location near the McMath Library, a planned community center, and medical institutions such as Baptist Health Medical Center and the Arkansas Heart Hospital.
City Director Doris Wright, whose ward includes the site, touted another benefit.

“You’ll have me as your champion, and I can get a lot of things done,” she said.