When Verizon was ready to move 150 or so office workers to a new Little Rock headquarters, Silver Development Co. saw a golden opportunity.
Known for shopping center and senior living projects, Silver wanted to prove its skill on major endeavors, and that certainly applies to the 31,000-SF third-floor space Silver is remaking for Verizon at the former Transamerica Building off Kanis Road in west Little Rock.
Silver, led by Larry Crain Jr. of Arkansas auto dealership fame, is flexing its general contracting muscles at 1400 Centerview Drive with a $2.5 million teardown and modern renovation.
“In early August, we started with a complete demolition of the third floor,” Silver COO Jayce Jones said. “This was a space with work cubicles and offices around the perimeter. Now it will be mostly open space and glass, and it’ll have all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing, new ceiling, high-end modern finishes. Very open. We have a half-million dollars’ worth of just electrical work in this project.”
Verizon, moving out of digs in Riverdale that the company sold to the state of Arkansas (see State Offices, Rather Than Raytheon, Relocate to Riverdale), expects to have all its employees at their new stations by early December. “We’ll complete the project in mid-November, and it’s a strict schedule, but we signed up for it. I think they are wanting to move in by late November or early January.”
The open-concept design is by Gensler, a global architecture firm with 48 locations and 6,000 employees.
Jones said the project demonstrates that Silver is “not just doing retail projects and residential age 55-plus developments.” Leading a tour past workers removing old ducts, Jones called Silver a hybrid. “We do retail, restaurants, high-end projects. We can handle single-family residential all the way up to multimillion-dollar commercial projects.”
Jones’ partner, Crain, led a group that bought the 100,000-SF Transamerica Building for more than $9 million in November 2018. Crain owns 75%, with the rest belonging to Jeff Hathaway, John Hathaway and Wes Martin of the Hathaway Group of Little Rock, as well as certain Hathaway Group clients.
At the time, Arkansas Business reported that more than 8 acres of adjacent land south of the Transamerica Building were part of the property, and that the new owners were considering using it to build new offices for future tenants.
In the existing three-story structure, Verizon will have the top floor, with Tata Consultancy Services of Mumbai on the second floor. There, Tata employs about 200 tech workers it absorbed from Transamerica’s workforce when the insurer engaged Tata in a $2 billion information technology contract. That deal gave Transamerica Life of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a chance to sell the building.
Tata, previously known in Arkansas for its 150-employee operation in Bentonville, is a 400,000-worker global giant in IT and business consulting. The multiyear deal with Transamerica, an IT outsourcing pact reached in 2018, is Tata’s biggest contract ever.
Jones said another high-profile client would be taking the first floor of the building, whose new name has not yet been finalized. An announcement on the last tenant will come soon, he said.
Several local subcontractors are working with Silver on the project, Jones said. Cowling Cook Electric of Little Rock is on the job, Mid-Town Mechanical Services of Benton is handling plumbing work, and Freyaldenhoven Heating & Cooling of Conway is the HVAC contractor. C&F Flooring of Little Rock is doing all the flooring work.
Jones said commercial projects require a more formal contracting process. “There’s probably 15 subcontractors and 100 separate workers onsite for this,” Jones said. “Commercial work requires more procedures in materials, and the spec book is not to be deviated from. It comes down to that particular screw or nail. You don’t have the flexibility, plus there are far more people involved. We have a weekly conference call involving 20 or more people every Monday on this Verizon project alone.”
One unusual feature will be a NanaWall, movable wall sections on a hidden track that can transform open space into a conference room in just seconds. “It’s a high-end feature and totally collapsible,” Jones said. “It’s designed to be moved manually quite easily.”
To be cleared for the job, Silver underwent a monthlong approval process commissioned by Verizon, Jones said, answering questions from a vetting company based in India. “They went over everything from financials to insurance requirements, a tremendous amount of questions and behind-the-scenes work. You have to demonstrate your ability, and they like to see some experience with large projects.”
The work schedule provides little wiggle room. “We have to be on time. It’s going to be a crunch, but we knew it would be that way,” Jones said. “We’ve made a commitment to these employees moving into a new office, and if we have to work nights and weekends, that’s what we’ll do, and all of the subcontractors have that same sense of commitment.”
Before the Transamerica project, Silver Development had always owned, built and operated all of its projects, including a 55-and-up rental development farther west off Chenal Parkway. The 188-unit high-end duplex community, Chenal Village, is a $35 million investment being built in three phases. Of the 35 units completed so far, only one is available for lease. The total project, at 1 Chenal Village Circle, is expected to be completed in 2021.
The company is also working on a similar but yet unnamed 55-and-over project in Rogers. Dirtwork and utility line construction are now underway there, Jones said. The company’s previous developments include Ranch West Villas, a neighborhood off Cantrell Road in west Little Rock, and the Wellington Center shopping complex at 15400 Chenal Parkway. Jones said clients look to Silver, which has about a dozen employees, for turnkey commercial, residential and restaurant projects. The company built Red Robin restaurant locations that opened last year in Conway and Benton, “coordinating every aspect from site location, purchase of materials, and all areas of construction,” even down to the acquisition of kitchen equipment.
Jones said a “tremendous amount of front-end work” went into planning the new Verizon space, and it won’t take on its final appearance until after Silver is finished. “The $2.5 million figure I gave you is just our end,” Jones said. “The actual furnishings Verizon will be putting in are worth another half-million.”