Little Rock Tech Park Issues RFP For $17.5 Million Financing Package

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Monday issued a 67-page “Request for Proposals” (RFP) seeking bids from local banks to finance the first phase a $30 million planned multi-phase downtown development to boost the city’s much-talked about startup and tech community.

The RFP was issued a day ahead of a resolution before the Little Rock City board of directors, where the tech board is requesting a $6.6 million appropriation advance from the 3/8-cents sales tax approved by citizens in 2012 to allocate some $22 million to develop the controversial tech park.

Nearly two weeks ago, the seven-person Tech Board unanimously approved a motion by Chairwoman Mary Good 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 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 resolution on Tuesday’s agenda, Mayor Mark Stodola has set Aug. 4 as the date and the time for a hearing before to consider the appropriation. If approved at next month’s meeting, Flake said the authority would be in a better position to close the deal with Stephens and access financing for the first phase of the multi-year project.

According to the RFP, the board is requesting a loan of $17.5 million with a fixed interest rate over a period of six years. The subject of the financing request involves a large amount of the site acquisition and the renovation of nearly 39,000 square feet of building space.

It includes the former Exchange Bank Building, located at the northeast corner of Capitol Avenue at Main Street, which is now leased to the State of Arkansas for a 15-year term, expiring in September 2027.  The state lease also includes 78 parking spaces, plus year-to-year leases on an additional 85 parking spaces, officials said.

Once completed, the proposed tech park will include the to-be-assembled land area containing nearly 142,500 square feet of building space, or 3.25 acres, in the downtown area.

It will include 403 feet of frontage on the east side of Main Street and 275 feet on the west side. The rear of the property has 300 feet of frontage on Scott Street, “giving the site excellent access to all of the collector streets and arterials serving the Little Rock Central Business District as well as to Interstate 30, which is only one-half mile away,” the RFP states.

The Tech Park board has also scheduled a “informational meeting” for Thursday, July 23, for parties interested in gathering more information about the RFP.