Leslie Peacock, who's covering the Little Rock Technology Park Authority meeting that's currently in progress, writes in to say that consultant Charles Dilks has sprung a new site on the board for consideration — space near Sears on University, where Brandon House Furniture used to be.
There was some hope that this would be the meeting the board would finally select a site.
Leslie will have a report following the meeting.
My text message to Lindsey was pretty confusing, so here's the real scoop: Charles Dilks, the site consultant hired by the authority board, who was not scheduled to appear on the agenda, made a surprise announcement: He brings to the table a fourth site, "an alternative possibility" to the three sites under consideration by the board. (Those are a site downtown, south of UALR and on John Barrow Road, and representatives of all three appeared to be stunned by the announcement.) Dilks has never been happy with the other three sites.
Jim Hathaway of Coldwell Banker Commercial Realty told the board he'd followed the site selection for the park with interest and had called Dilks to let him know that the Sears property at I-630 and University would be available. It's 12.53 acres, and under lease until 2017 but a small portion could be available in a year. With that possibility, Dilks revisited the idea of the Brandon building, south of Sears and at the intersection of University and 12th Street. There are 4.5 acres there. Too, there is a possibility off additional acreage when Doctors Hospital is torn down to make way for a new facility and parking deck sharing.
What happened to the idea that 30 acres was needed? That the property needed to be contiguous? Weren't those problems mentioned before with two of the other three sites?
Dilks told the board that there is new thinking that parks can be built in a "more compact, denser" fashion.
Dilks also said he knew an architect that could look at the Brandon building and see how it might best be used for research space. Chair Mary Good asked Dilks to bring him to Little Rock, and made a motion that the board add the fourth site to the list of three under consideration. The board will try to hold an interim meeting between now and the next monthly meeting to hear from the architect and details on price for the two parcels, which was not available tonight.
The Brandon building is 140,000 square feet, about the same size as the start-up building envisioned by the Authority.
The board took a few questions from the public tonight. May other sites be presented to the board? Yes. Good said, though she's not eager for the process to drag along. Will the three other sites be able to make their case again when the fourth site is discussed? Maybe.
The board also heard from Dr. Phil Stafford, who reported on the University of Arkansas Technology Development Foundation, Jeff Stinson of UALR's Center of Innovation and Commercialization pipeline and Marie Chow, interim director of Bio-Ventures.