The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a motion by Chairwoman Mary Goode to request a $6.8 million advance from the City of Little Rock to fund the purchase of prime downtown real estate from Stephens Inc. in the fast-growing Creative Corridor on Main Street.
In addition, the board asked executive director Brent Birch and board member and Little Rock real estate developer Dickson Flake to move forward with preparing a request for a financing proposal to local lenders to bankroll the tech park’s Phase I annexation and development plan, which is expected to top $30 million. If the Little Rock board of directors approves the loan advance, Dickson said the tech park board would be in a better position to close the deal with Stephens and access financing for the first phase of the multi-year project.
In earlier conversations with Little Rock’s legal counsel, Goode said the city would only be able to access current year funds ($6.8 million) that are part of the $22 million tech park bounty that taxpayers approved during a 2011 sales tax referendum. Flake also said Stephens had appraised the properties up for sale surrounding the KATV building at Fourth and Main streets at $11.6 million.
Both actions come almost exactly a year after the tight-knitted board hired Birch to lead the tech park, and approved a consulting firm’s recommendation to begin talks to purchase “prime property” in the downtown area to serve as the authority’s headquarters.
Goode said it is the hope of the board to take ownership of the properties from Stephens by the end of the year. In other business, the tech park board’s financial report showed that the taxpayer-financed venture had net losses of more than $27,000 for the first six months of 2015.