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Tech Park Board Gives Birch Raise, Braces for Eminent Domain

3 min read

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Wednesday voted to give its director a 5 percent raise and braced for a possible eminent domain lawsuit.

The board met in executive session for what Chairman Mary Good called an annual review of its only employee, Director Brent Birch, and announced following a brief confab that Birch would receive a 5 percent raise. That’ll take his annual salary to $105,000.

Birch is the former chief information officer for Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock, which publishes Arkansas Business.

The board also inched closer to the Nov. 16 deadline it imposed on Little Rock lawyer Richard Mays, who owns and whose law firm occupies the property at 415 Main the board needs to complete the $24 million Phase 1 of the planned downtown tech park.

Mays and the board had disagreed on the value of the three-story, 10,000-SF property, which the board plans to use as the anchor property for Phase 1 of the project. Earlier this month, the board agreed to offer Mays $845,000 — $175,000 more than its original proposal and matching Mays’ own property appraisal.

Board member Dickson Flake, a long-time downtown Little Rock developer who had been negotiating with Mays on behalf of the board, said Wednesday that he didn’t expect Mays to accept the offer.

“At this point, I have no indication that it will be accepted,” Flake said.

Mays told Arkansas Business last month that he wanted to work with the tech park and even offered to lease the property to the board. But he challenged the legitimacy of the tech park as a public entity. Board attorney Scott Schallhorn of Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodward said the statute that established the board clearly defines it as a quasi-public entity, similar to an improvement district, and authorizes eminent domain powers.

Mays has until noon on Monday to accept the offer. Otherwise, the board will prepare to sue claiming eminent domain, with the filing taking place Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

In other board news, Birch said the Tech Park @ 107 space that houses tech park offices at 107 East Markham across from the Statehouse Convention Center is at capacity. The park leases desks and co-working space to tech-based entrepreneurs, and Birch said all 20 desks are leased.

The demand validates the need for the park, he said.

Birch also presented the board with a breakdown of the Phase 1 properties along Main that it agreed to purchase from Warren Stephens through his DMT Ventures LLC and Five Main Place LLC for roughly $11.6 million.  

Parcel Address Description Use
34L0200410500 400 Main St. West Main Parking Parking Lot
34L0200410600 406 Main St. West Main Parking Parking Lot
34L0200410400 412 Main St. West Main Parking Parking Lot
34L0200410100 422 Main St. West Main Parking Parking Lot
34L0200410300 400 Main St. West Main Parking Parking Lot
Total DMT Ventures LLC Transaction     $784,000
34L0200102900 405 Main St. Center Theater Parking Parking Lot
34L0200103000 409 Main St. Center Theater Parking Parking Lot
34L0200103100 411 Main St. Center Theater Parking Parking Lot
34L0200103300 417 Main St. Exchange Bank Annex Vacant Office Building
34L0200103400 421 Main St. Five Main Place Office Building
34L0200103500 Scott St. Keith Lot Parking Lot
34L0200103600 114 E. Capitol Ave. Old Stephens Bldg. Vacant Office Building
Total Five Main Place LLC Transaction     $10,816,000
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