Argenta Innovation Center in North Little Rock To Be 1st Phase of Regional Hub

by Mark Carter  on Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013 12:54 pm  

A group of business leaders on Tuesday announced the Argenta Innovation Center, a 15,000-SF space designed to give local entrepreneurs a place to build their ideas and create new companies around technology and engineering.

The center is the first phase of the planned Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which will include three components: the Silver Mine co-working space, the Fab Lab technology space, and the Art Connection, an after-school and summer art program for students.

Modeled after the Idea Village in New Orleans, the center is located in a building that once housed a police substation, sitting just a block off Main Street at the corner of West Fourth and Poplar streets in downtown North Little Rock.

The project is driven by the innovation hub's capital campaign committee, which is working to raise $2.5 million to purchase and renovate the building. So far, the committee has received pledges for about half the money it needs.

Harold Tenenbaum, a supporter of the project, owns the building. The committee will purchase it for $900,000, spend about $1.2 million for renovations, and spend another $400,000 for furnishings and fixtures.

The Art Connection, which is modeled after the Artists for Humanity program in Boston and opened last fall to North Little Rock High School art students, is already up and running. It will grow to 4,000-SF once renovations are complete. The Silver Mine will take up 9,400-SF, including a 3,950-SF loft space. The Fab Lab will occupy 6,780-SF.

Attracting, Retaining Entrepreneurs

Officials designing the hub envision a Google village-style atmosphere in Argenta with housing and more office space.

Committee chairman Barry Hyde, the former state legislator from North Little Rock and owner of Hydco Construction, said the center will help the region attract new talent and retain home-grown entrepreneurs. He cited studies that show for every 1 percent gain in residents with college degrees, the central Arkansas region stands to benefit $534 annually.

Committee members hope to have the center up and running by next spring. They expect fundraising through 2013. Taggart Architects of North Little Rock will handle the renovations.

Members of the Argenta Innovation Center Capital Campaign Committee are Hyde, Jerry Currence, John Gaudin, Jack Grundfest, Harry Hamlin, Donna Hardcastle, former North Little Rock mayor Pat Hays, David Hudson, Arlton Lowry, John Rogers, Maurice Taylor and Dustin Williams.

The announcement drew a crowd that included Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Grant Tennille; North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith; Chris Masingill, co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority; and state legislators from both sides of the Arkansas River.



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