First Orion of Little Rock held a groundbreaking Thursday for its previously announced six-story global headquarters at 520 Main St. in the Argenta Historic District of North Little Rock.
The project is estimated to cost around $10 million. It will sit adjacent to Argenta Plaza, a planned public space on Main Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.
The building will take about a year to complete, company executives said in a news release.
North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith; First Orion CEO Charles Morgan; John Owens, CEO of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce; John Rutledge, vice president of First Security Bank; Bill Gray, CEO of Taggart Architects; and Sam Alley, CEO of VCC, the contractor for the project, attended the groundbreaking. Taggart Architects is assisting lead architect Stephen Rousseau with the project.
“I want to say how excited we are to finally get this building going,” Morgan said at the event. “I was really optimistic about this building and getting it going very quickly. I hoped to get it going by March, but I didn’t realize all the roadblocks that the mayor and I were going to run into and the team were going to run into. But it’s going to be worth it.
“The reason I’m excited about us moving to North Little Rock is one of the most important things we do as a company is recruit people. And we can recruit people and keep people if we give them a great work environment. Part of the work environment is not just what’s in the building, but it’s what around the building,” he said. “And I think this is going to give us a great opportunity to create a happier set of employees at our business. I think this is going to be a great location with the parking and all the amenities in the area they keep adding to everyday.”
The mayor called the First Orion building the “icing on the cake” and the anchor of a planned business district; Owens called it the “inflection point.”
“Putting this property together was like putting … a jigsaw puzzle together, and, if it wasn’t for surveyors, engineers, EPA, attorneys, Charles and I would’ve already had this building built,” Smith said. “We were ready to go last November.”
First Orion is the parent company of PrivacyStar, which makes call- and text-blocking applications for smartphones. The company is currently headquartered in the Museum Building in the River Market District of Little Rock. It moved there from Conway in 2015.
At 80,000 SF, the new building will have space for First Orion’s operations, plus leasable space for retailers and at least one restaurant.
The company has about 100 employees now but is looking to reach more than 300 soon. The project will allow for that growth and give it more permanent roots, executives said previously.
First Orion said Thursday that it is actively recruiting employees for positions in software development, analytics and customer management.
The new building, along with unrelated property line and easement issues, has delayed plans for $4.4 million Argenta Plaza, according to Nathan Hamilton, the city’s director of communications. The city and company needed additional time to coordinate the projects because they are in close proximity, he said.
The plaza should be finished by this time next year, Hamilton said. Plans for the public space include a free-standing water wall, fountains, an audiovisual screen wall and a “front porch” with porch swings.
The plaza is being designed by Taggart Architects of North Little Rock and DLand Studio of New York City. Alessi Keyes Construction of North Little Rock is the contractor.
Also planned for the area is the 164-apartment, $16 million Thrive complex at 501 N. Magnolia St.; Hamilton said that project could be completed by Thanksgiving. There’s also the $10 million, 25,000-SF office building at 600 Main St. that will house Taggart Architects, the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association, and a $10 million, 15,000-SF restaurant-and-residences project abutting the plaza to the north.