Latest Project of Bobby Roberts, River Market's Arcade Building, Nearing Completion

by George Waldon  on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 12:00 am  

Bobby Roberts has attained a reputation for being half-librarian and half-developer as the executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

Backed by property tax revenue, Roberts has overseen construction of a string of branch library projects as well as less conventional developments in downtown Little Rock.

The newest addition to the CALS real estate roster will be the Arcade Building at 100 River Market Ave. The $14 million, 59,000-SF, mixed-use project represents a loose joint venture between CALS and private development interests.

The building will be linked by a sky bridge to the $21 million Arkansas Studies Institute, a 66,383-SF center also championed by Roberts.

The library system’s piece of the Arcade Building cost $7 million, funded by refinancing and extending a 2004 bond issue, a move that was approved by voters in March 2012.

The investment gave CALS a 52.8 percent stake in the project. When construction of the CALS space is completed in early December, ownership will be conveyed to CALS.

At $3.1 million, the two-story, 325-seat theater is the biggest line item for CALS. Office space and the theater give the library system a combined 27,832 SF in the Arcade Building. Other tenants and owners will occupy the remaining 25,200 SF.

“I would hope we would have our first events in there by the middle of January,” Roberts said of the theater. “It’s designed to handle music performances, movies and lecture events.

“We call it a theater but it will be used for a lot of things. We want to keep it busy.”

Along the way, CALS also bought a ribbon of land around half the building for $235,000 from Clinton-Commerce LLC, and the limited liability company, which owns the Arcade site, had to relocate a police kiosk in a trade with the city

Another significant part of the Arcade Building will be Cache. Space for the restaurant was acquired for nearly $2 million, about $234 per SF.

“Jimmy [Moses] is a good salesman, and he kind of strapped me on that,” said Rush Harding III, who led the purchase of Cache space. “It’s an expensive piece of property. On a per-SF price, it might be the most expensive in Little Rock.”



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