by Max Brantley
I've written previously about real estate dealings ( and also here) of the Arkansas Career Education Department, headed by former state Sen. Bill Walker. Eyebrows were raised by a move that was to consolidate several agency locations into the former Arkansas Baptist State Convention building at 525 W. Capitol Avenue owned by a group headed by his friend and another prominent political player, Little Rock lawyer Richard Mays.
I was alerted over the weekend to a change in earlier announced plans. Originally, the plan was for an addition of a third floor on the building to accommodate offices that had been in a building on Brookwood in Riverdale and in Corporate Hill in West Little Rock. But the addition has been scrapped. Too expensive, says Anne Laidlaw of the Arkansas Building Authority, which oversees state building leasing.
Instead, the state has exercised an option to lease an outbuilding from the same owner across the street, at 601 W. Capitol. Together, said Laidlaw, the deal will save the state money. Her figures:
New Lease for 525 & 601 West Capitol Avenue to take effect November 1st: 34,317 s.f. of office space & 1,524 s.f. of storage space will commence at = $504,665.70/yr ($14.08/sf)
The Lease above will replace these two leases which will result in the consolidation of the staff into one location:
1) 525 West Capitol for 28,964 s.f. = $417,660.88/yr. or $14.42/sf. [If this bldg had been expanded to add the 3rd floor it would have been $782,44.72/yr for 48,963 s.f.]
2) 26 Corporate Hill continue on a month-to-month basis until relocation at a current rent of $538,500/yr. or $17.95/sf
When the state was in the Corporate Hill and Brookwood buildings, before cutting the deal with Mays' LLC, the total rent for 1616 Brookwood & 26 Corporate Hill = 51,035 s.f. @ $745,615.45 combined annual rent, or $14.60/sf
So, in the end — and after a fair amount of scrutiny — it would appear Walker is going to achieve his goal of unifying offices in one place for a lower cost.