Tech Park Sees More Demand From Startups, Entrepreneurs

Tech Park Sees More Demand From Startups, Entrepreneurs
The lobby and coffee shop of the Little Rock Technology Park's anchor facility at 417 Main St. (Little Rock Technology Park)

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board learned Wednesday that it will be asked to approve a conversion of the fourth floor at 417 Main St. to meet increased demand from smaller operations for short-term leases and furnished space.

The project included renovations to 415 and 417 Main St. in Little Rock. It's set to open in March.

Executive Director Brent Birch said demand by startups and entrepreneurs has outpaced that of more established companies that need larger, unfurnished space and longer lease terms of three to five years.

He said he expects leases for all the facility's turnkey spaces on the third floor to be signed next week. The board approved rental rates in April. 

The idea then is to reconfigure the fourth floor to match the third. Birch said a special meeting would be required for the board to approve the renovation plan once he gets a price from contractor East Harding Construction of Little Rock.

Birch said it would cost less to have the floor converted now, while contractors and subcontractors are on site, rather than later.

Once approved, the conversion should take four to five weeks, Birch said. 

"The longer term would be ordering the furniture, getting it delivered and installed," he said. "The amount of construction needing done is not monumental by any means."

The park so far has named 12 tenants to lease space at the new facility, including Ritter Communications

Board members also heard that Phase I of the park is expected to fall below its $17.1 million budget. 

Chairman Kevin Zaffaroni said that was probably the result of the park having enough contingency funds built into its budget, the expertise of the people involved in it, some demolition having already been done and "maybe a little bit of luck."

Birch said the savings means the park might not have to borrow as much as it had originally planned.

In other business, Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will each contribute another $25,000 each to the Little Rock Technology Park for two years, adding to the $125,000 they had already provided.

Birch told Arkansas Business that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the city of Little Rock also contributed $125,000 each, but the Tech Park has not spoken to them about continuing their sponsorships.

The city board is expected to distribute another $1.36 million in sales tax collected for the park at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Update, Feb. 17, 2017: The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board voted in a teleconference to spend just under $170,000 to convert and furnish the tech park's fourth floor. In other business, the board granted Birch the authority to negotiate rates for parking with Best Park LLC. Best Park will receive a fee to manage the parking, but the revenue generated by parking fees will go to the tech park.

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