Regional Power Grid Manager Plans $62.5M Office Project In WLR

by George Waldon  on Monday, Mar. 1, 2010 12:00 am  

Details are coming together that should launch construction of a $62.5 million office development in west Little Rock by mid-year.

Southwest Power Pool Inc., which oversees an electricity power grid in eight states, has plans for a 150,000-SF office building and a 33,000-SF operations center. The project would allow the not-for-profit corporation to consolidate its Little Rock operations and house an expanded staff envisioned to include 150 new workers during the next three years.

"It will be the biggest deal around here in a very long time," said Jim Hathaway, a veteran Little Rock commercial developer.

Southwest Power Pool currently employs about 450 scattered around three locations in Pulaski County. The new facility will allow a consolidation of two Little Rock offices, but the company's 20,000-SF operations center at 1300 Murphy Drive in Maumelle will remain in use as a backup facility.

"Over the years, we've shoehorned people wherever we could," said Nicholas Brown, president and CEO of Southwest Power Pool. "It's time to look at our longer-term needs and plan for the future."

The corporate headquarters occupies about 60,000 SF in the Plaza West Building at 415 N. McKinley St. in midtown Little Rock, and additional staffers work out of nearly 30,000 SF in the GMAC Center at 16101 La Grande Drive in west Little Rock.

"It will bring us all together on one campus," said Emily Pennel, communications manager at Southwest Power Pool. "We looked at existing buildings and properties all around Little Rock. We have not signed a contract yet. We're still in negotiations."

Southwest Power Pool looked at more than 30 properties since the corporate campus plan took life 18 months ago, and the final details of an acquisition should be hammered out in the next few weeks.

The most publicized site considered was an 18-acre tract at the northeast corner of Rahling Road and Chenal Drive owned by the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.

However, a 20-acre site south of the Kroger Marketplace under construction at 16105 Chenal Parkway is labeled by some as the leading candidate. The property is part of an 80-acre tract that Whisenhunt Investment Group LLC hopes to develop into an office park.

"They're committed to the deal," Joe Whisenhunt Jr. said of Southwest Power Pool. "It's just a matter of getting through all the legalities."

Among the remaining chores are taking care of zoning and land-use issues with Little Rock officials and eventually getting the property annexed into the city.



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