Structural Work, Other Items Add $360K to Tech Park Cost

Structural Work, Other Items Add $360K to Tech Park Cost

Renovations to the future home of the Little Rock Tech Park could cost $358,729 more than expected and its opening may be delayed, Executive Director Brent Birch told the park's board of directors on Wednesday.

Birch told the board that much of the additional cost could be attributed to unexpected structural issues uncovered at 415 Main St. But the board has about $857,000 in contingency funds to cover overruns, and Birch said some extra expenses would likely be covered by shifting money from line items that come in under budget.

The park's opening could be delayed by as much as eight weeks, Birch said.

The board in April approved a $6.8 million budget for renovation and asbestos abatement involving properties at 415 and 417 Main St. and 114 E. Capitol Ave., where the park plans to open early next year. It has been temporarily operating out of space at 107 Main St.

Construction began on the new space in April. But Birch said there were still tenants in 415 Main until May 31, so construction crews only recently discovered the need to shore up the north wall of the 100-year-old building.

The park plans other changes to the floor plan based on requests and feedback by prospective tenants. The Venture Center, which is currently renting space at 107 Main, has requested space on the bottom floor of the revamped building, and three prospective tenants have said they'd like a more elaborate coffee bar.

In his report to the board, Birch said 415 Main is still in the interior demolition phase. He said contractor East Harding Construction of Little Rock would know next month whether the building could open in early or late February.  

Birch said that once the new timeline is determined, the board will have to decide whether it should open one building in January and the other later or open both in February.

Board member C.J. Duvall said, considering the age of the buildings, the cost overruns were "not alarming." He asked Roy St. Claire of Wittenberg Delony & Davidson Architects of Little Rock whether he expected crews to find anything else that would result in significant additional costs.

"I think we've got everything addressed," St. Claire said.

Birch added that 417 Main is a concrete structure, while 415 Main is a wood-frame structure, and a lot more was known about 417 Main because a previous tenant had partially renovated it.


Birch also said the park's first tenants have leases to sign and would be named within the next month.

PFITR of Missouri, which participated in the Venture Center's FinTech Accelerator, has set up shop in the park's temporary space at 107 Main and is interested in space at the new facility. LumoXchange, another FinTech Accelerator alum, is working with the park to move into the temporary space and also looking at options for moving into the new facility, Birch said.

Board members also voiced reluctance to spend more to keep up the HVAC system at the park's temporary space. Birch said the park had already spent about $4,500 and problems with the system had caused some uncomfortably hot days there. In July, the board voted to end its 107 Main lease.

In other business, the board met for 40 minutes to discuss Birch's performance but took no action.