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  • As printed in the Daily Record

Large Office Spaces and Loads of Dirt

About once a day someone will ask me what is happening with the closed Sears store. Or they will ask me if Costco is coming to Little Rock. Or, they will ask me both. As of this writing, both are yet to be seen. Sears closed before their lease was up and the re-development plan circulating includes another building on the adjoining property that will not be available for demolition until 2018. That’s what is proposed, demolition of all three buildings on the property with the Interstate 630 frontage. So stay tuned and be patient (that includes you Max).

As an aside, the Little Rock Board of Adjustment has an application pending for the addition of outdoor dining at a restaurant. Some neighbors have concerns with the idea. At issue is the definition of “adjacent.” My handy 6th Edition Dictionary of Real Estate Terms provides this definition: “nearby but not necessarily ‘adjoining’.” On we go to adjoining … that definition is “contiguous; attaching; sharing a common border.” It turns out that application of the pertinent ordinance has been as though the terms “adjacent” and “adjoining” are interchangeable. I’ve depended on this Dictionary of Real Estate Terms since 1994. I’ll go with adjacent is not necessarily adjoining.

More in the nothing-happening-yet department is construction at The Ranch for the planned Bank of The Ozarks campus. Some of the smart kids tell me that work is scheduled to start this year. A while back this column noted that a trampoline park on Colonel Glenn, across the freeway from Rave Cinemas, was planned. Most recent word is the site work for that should have started by the time you read this column. Something else currently happening is the site work well under way for the Lowe’s home improvement store on the northwest corner of Bowman Road and Kanis Road (next to Sam’s Club). I don’t know how many truckloads of dirt are being removed. I can tell you though, that the trucks hauling that dirt are taking it down Bowman Road almost to Colonel Glenn Road. The property where Crain Ford built, on the north side of Colonel Glenn Road between Bowman Road and Interstate 430, is the new home for all that dirt. I’ll let you know if I confirm that dirt already has a purpose. Rumor is that it might.

There were a few miscellaneous transactions last month that I thought were interesting. You might think so too. Pain Treatment Centers Of America, via an entity named PTCOA Shackleford Clinic, LLC, recently bought the Nichols Furniture building at 108 N. Shackleford for $3,030,000. That’s $95 per square foot for those of you keeping score that way. National Retail Properties bought the new Dave & Buster’s at Gateway Town Center. That sale-leaseback fetched the tidy sum of $8,100,000. Price per square foot is of less interest here than the cap rate I think. If anyone knows what the cap rate on this sale was and wants to share, shoot me a note. Arkansas Specialty Partners bought 4.06 acres along Interstate 630 at the Fair Park interchange and paid $2,500,000. That price included the inheritance of some site work and off-site improvements that had been required by the city some time back. I don’t expect to see convoys of dump trucks to and from that site.

I happened to be part of a conversation last week wherein a question was posed about large blocks of office vacancy. The question was: where is there 50,000 or more square feet of office space available for a company to move into? In conjunction with some recent wondering around town about the Acxiom building, that seems like a good exercise here. We’ll count the Acxiom building as having that sort of availability even though it is not officially on the market. Given the ownership/financing structure of that property it might not be as easy as just signing a lease agreement. A way to do it could be found though. So where else? Well, Regions Center has over 50,000 square feet empty, and the building is for sale at about $75 per square foot. Replacement cost for a 30-story building would be close to four times that. And the AT&T, formerly Southwestern Bell, building a little further down Capitol Avenue is being offered for sale. It isn’t priced though. It has a gross floor area of over 350,000 square feet. The M.M. Cohn building on Main Street is also for sale and is a little over 70,000 square feet. And a building on Colonel Glenn that was once home to a Sam’s Club and more recently used for radio and TV station offices is about 107,000 square feet and listed for sale. Those choices are all very different and most present challenges for parking or for renovations. The Acxiom building is the newest of the troupe and ostensibly the easiest to make ready from a physical standpoint, if not a legal standpoint. Other choices would be to build something new. Entitlements and construction costs are obvious hurdles to starting fresh. Although, there are some places that are already entitled and have a head-start on the costs of infrastructure and off-site improvements. The FIS campus on North Rodney Parham is one. When that project was approved years ago, the site plan was approved with room for three more buildings on the campus. And the Technology Park on Main Street has plans for more construction that would accommodate up to a half million square feet.

I’d like to see a company move to Little Rock and need 50,000 square feet, or 100,000 square feet, or more. Especially those kinds of jobs that look for office spaces like the ones above. Often those are well-paying jobs and having more of those is better than having fewer. Let’s hope that the person that posed the question of where to find 50,000+ square feet of office space really gets the chance to solve that problem.

Tips and suggestions, well most of them anyway, are appreciated. Hope you found something interesting in the column this month.

Check back again next month for the things that didn’t get included here this time and that pop up between now and then.

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