by Max Brantley
Not long after UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson announced his idea for a location for the Little Rock Technology Park, two more ideas for a location surfaced — one envisioning development far beyond just a tech park.
* WAR MEMORIAL PARK: This much more expansive proposal turned up with agenda materials for the meeting tomorrow of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority. It includes local developers Greg Nabholz, Fletcher Hanson and Paul Esterer. It proposes using city and UAMS property and the $22 million earmarked for tech park construction, plus potential private investment, for a hotel, conference center, tech park, retail, Zoo administration building, a mass transit hub and more, including completion of the Coleman Creek Trail from UALR to War Memorial Park.
Here's the full proposal. It's ambitious, to put it mildly. In that it includes parking lots and other bits of War Memorial Park land, it will inspire lots of talk and almost certainly controversy. UAMS property also presents a challenge. The pitch went to the mayor, UALR, UAMS, the Zoo, War Memorial Stadium Commission and the Tech Park Authority.
The Midtown Civic Mixed Use Initiative would initiate a "comprehensive neighborhood preservation and investment strategy" and leverage potential resources, the proposal says. The idea is being pitched by Vialta Group, Newmark Grubbs Arkansas and Integral, said to have worked on redevelopment projects associated with the Atlanta Olympics.
"If this letter of interest makes sense, we look forward to initiating a process to discuss the alignment of the public interest in the vision discussed above and the private investment expectations to realize the vision," said the letter.
The letter is signed by Scott Polikov of the Vialta Group, based in Dallas, and Nabholz.
* DOWNTOWN: The Downtown Partnership has pitched a new idea, too, to use available downtown structures that qualify for historic rehabilitation tax credits. (See map on jump for properties the group has in mind.)
The Little Rock Downtown Partnership wants the Tech Park board to consider developing the park on Main Street. The partnership has asked to speak at the board's September meeting. Here's a letter on the subject.
Downtown Partnership Director Sharon Priest said today that, after hearing about the said tech park board's tour of St. Louis' Cortex facilities and the Wake Forest Innovation Center, both of which are in those cities' downtowns, "we thought why not downtown" here.
"22 million public dollars are not going to take care" of what is need to create the tech park, Priest said. You need to have private dollars to leverage the public dollars, and that potential start-ups could take advantage of tax credits associated with downtown properties.
Priest said she had not spoken to any developers "directly." Mayor Mark Stodola has been pushing the idea of a Main Street location for the Tech Park.
"Science and culture go together," Priest said, a theme reiterated in partnership President Millie Ward's letter to tech park board chair Dr. Mary Good. Ward wrote:
The “Creative Corridor” of arts and culture in downtown Little Rock can and should be for science and technology. The attached map of the Creative Corridor downtown highlights some of the main attractions which we believe are critical elements contributing to a successful Technology Corridor. We know that several vacant lots in the downtown core are immediately available for the construction of new buildings and there are several existing buildings available that can be adaptively reused.
Restaurants, cultural institutions, parks and housing are all immediately available and within a short walk from each other. Likewise, the business district and the offices of lawyers, CPA’s and banking institutions are located within the Creative Corridor. Ample parking exists as well as public transportation. Complementary institutions, such as eStem School, The Museum of Discovery and Acxiom are all located within the Creative Corridor.
Noted: The Tech Park Authority Board meeting tomorrow includes an agenda item to set a cutoff point for site selection.