The Little Rock Tech Park is still a few months from its first anniversary, but plans are already moving full steam ahead to develop Phase 2 of the downtown co-working and startup development space.
At the organization’s Dec. 13 board meeting, the organization selected WER Architects/Planners of Little Rock as the lead architects on the 100,000-square-foot construction, to be a mix of office and wet and dry lab space. Little Rock Tech Park Executive Director Brent Birch said most of the new year will be spent doing the remaining legwork for rounding out the team and moving the planning process forward.
“Our next charge will be to go ahead and select the construction manager, the contracting firm, that will head it up,” he said. “Then the combined effort of the board of directors, myself, architects and the construction manager will start working on what the budget will be for that particular project and what it will cost to build out. From that, we will start working on the finding the funds to execute what will be Phase 2.”
“ is going to be heavy on the planning, probably not a lot in terms of hammer and nails.”
The need to advance Phase 2 speaks to the popularity of the tech park, which, after a year of construction, opened in March 2017 with a dozen tenants. By November, the number of companies utilizing the space had ballooned to more than 40. The tech park enters the new year with around 38 tenants, from one- and two-person entrepreneurs up to more established companies.
“The premise of the first phase is geared toward providing everything a small tech company or a startup or even a ‘solopreneur’ would need,” Birch said. “We’ve created this energetic community building space that allows these like-minded individuals to collaborate and talk the same talk. We take everyone from working in a silo of their own somewhere scattered all over Little Rock and put them all under one roof for a synergy of skillsets and talents and even opportunities.”
The six-story Phase 1 space provides turnkey amenities for the startup or individual entrepreneurs which currently make up the bulk of the tech park’s tenants. The two upper floors, reserved for long-term tenants, has taken longer to fill.
“We knew that there was going to be a longer lead time to fill those [long-term] spaces,” Birch said. “We’ve had some good prospects that we continue to work with. Hopefully one of those will pan out here in the first quarter that will take up a large chunk of that floor space.”
The development of the neighborhood has assisted the center’s growth. Outside the center’s doors, downtown Little Rock’s Creative Corridor stretches along the length of Main Street. Birch said this new energy only enhances tech entrepreneurs’ desire to live and work in urban centers.
“This is the trend that you’re seeing around the country, even in the Golden Triangle that was the first science and research park outside the Durham-Chapel Hill [North Carolina] area,” he said. “It’s happening in Winston-Salem, happening in St. Louis, Nashville. You’re seeing a lot of urban revitalization spurred by these kinds of developments downtown. This is where that generation of worker wants to be. It’s kind of overused, but it’s the live-work-play environment they want.”