The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Wednesday chose WER Architects/Planners of Little Rock to design the second phase of its $100 million, six-phase project.
The other finalists were Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and Wittenberg Delony & Davidson Architects, both of Little Rock. WD&D designed the project’s first phase, the renovation of buildings at 415 and 417 Main St. into the 38,000-SF anchor facility for the park.
The Tech Park, designed to attract and retain startups and established technology companies, is funded in part by a half-cent city sales tax that’s expected to generate $22 million.
Plans for the project’s second phase include construction of a 100,000-SF, six-story building on the empty lot between the park’s current facility and the KATV building at Main and Fourth streets. The building will include wet/dry laboratories, offices and meeting spaces, though specific details have yet to be determined.
The board does not have a budget for the project; it expects the architect to help determine the scope of the building.
The board heard the three firms’ presentations at its meeting last week and held a teleconference Tuesday to discuss them. Members were instructed to submit their rankings of the three firms to Brent Birch, the park’s executive director, by 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Most of the seven-member board ranked WER as their first choice. Members C.J. Duvall and Darrin Williams listed WD&D as their first choice.
During Tuesday’s teleconference, board member Nancy Gray, president of BioVentures at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, advocated for WER, saying the firm had the most experience designing buildings with lab spaces.
Among WER’s designs are Southwest Power Pool’s Little Rock headquarters, the Richard Sheppard Arnold U.S. Courthouse in downtown Little Rock and Southern Arkansas University’s Science Center in Magnolia. The firm’s engineers also worked on the BioVentures building alongside another architect.
During its presentation to the board last week, WER emphasized the need for a modern building that fits into a landscape that includes historic properties like KATV and renovated historic properties like the current tech park facility.
The team also mentioned the possibility using Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for the project.
PACE is a financing option that pays 100 percent of the upfront costs of energy-saving upgrades. Those costs are then repaid over time as an addition to property tax bills. Energy savings over the payoff period are calculated to cover the cost.
(Correction: A previous version of this article stated that WER designed the BioVentures building. The firm’s engineers worked on the building alongside another architect. We have corrected the error.)