North Little Rock sets sale price of land behind planned downtown plaza at $347,588

Draft contracts for First Orion to buy two parcels of land behind North Little Rock's planned downtown plaza list a combined sale price of $347,588, according to documents being prepared by the North Little Rock City Attorney's office.

The adjacent parcels -- one owned by the city and the other by the North Little Rock Downtown Development Board -- will become the site for First Orion's new global headquarters in the 500 block of Main Street.

First Orion, a company now based in Little Rock that develops and sells software to help cellphone users identify and block unwanted calls, announced Nov. 6 its plans to make a $10 million investment for a five- or six-story office building to be on the east end of the plaza. The building is planned to also include retail shops, restaurants and a fitness center on the ground floor.

The First Orion building, the $4 million plaza and a $4.8 million, three-story building at 600 Main St., on city property just north of the plaza site, will all begin construction at about the same time this spring, said Danny Bradley, chairman of the Downtown Development Board. The Development Board will manage the construction of the 600 Main St. building.

"It may be late April, but I think all three projects will have ground broken in April," said Bradley, who is also Mayor Joe Smith's chief of staff.

The North Little Rock City Council approved two memorandums of intent Nov. 27 to clear the way for First Orion's plans to purchase the land next to the plaza that the city will develop on vacant city property along Main Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. Smith has said he envisions the plaza and its surrounding developments to create a vibrant gathering place in the center of downtown.

The cost of the property sale to First Orion wasn't known until surveys to measure and create a footprint of the combined parcels were completed. A map by Thomas Engineering Co. outlining the "Argenta Plaza Properties" properties was finalized Tuesday.

The city-owned property measured 12,742 square feet and is being sold at $6 per square foot, or $76,452. The parcel owned by the development board is 16,946 square feet and is priced at $16 per square foot, or $271,136.

The combined parcels comprise 29,688 square feet that will be sold at a "blended cost," Bradley said, of about $11.70 per square foot.

Once the draft contracts are completed, they will be forwarded to attorneys for First Orion to review, North Little Rock City Attorney Amy Fields said Friday. The City Council and the Downtown Development Board will each have to approve the sale of their respective parcels as well, she said.

"Once we get this into a final form and get them signed, we'll get the property sold to them as quickly as we can," Fields said.

In December, the Downtown Development Board bought the larger parcel owned by The Mill LLC for $16 per square foot with the agreement that the board would then sell the property to First Orion at the same price per square foot. The city-owned property would be sold at $6 per square foot, a price agreed upon in the November memorandum of intent.

The City Council created the Downtown Development Board in 2016 for the purpose of ensuring the "proper and orderly development of the downtown area." The board has authority to borrow money and to acquire, sell, lease or manage property for development within downtown.

The 600 Main St. building will house on the first floor the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, managed by the city's Advertising and Promotion Commission. The bureau is to relocate its main offices from Burns Park in order to operate and maintain the plaza. Taggart Architects, which is designing the plaza, and the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association will each take up one of the remaining floors.

"Each of the individual owners will be responsible for individually finishing out the interior design for their section," Bradley said, on top of each paying $1.6 million as equal shares of the building's cost.

Metro on 01/27/2018