Talks between River Parks and two developers interested in sites along the west bank of the Arkansas River have cooled off, River Parks officials said last week.
“I think many things have changed now about the river’s future and what it looks like,” said Robin Flint Ballenger, chairwoman of the River Parks Authority board. “It’s probably not the best time to be looking at RFPs (requests for proposals) honestly.”
Ballenger, speaking during Thursday’s authority meeting, noted that city officials are creating development standards for construction along the river while also planning an April vote on whether to build low-water dams in the Arkansas River.
“So I think it’s OK that this” is where we are, Ballenger said.
Other factors are in play as well.
One of the developers, Tulsa-based Davies Architects, has been unable to find an anchor restaurant, Ballenger said. And the Truck Yard — a Dallas-based restaurant — has asked the city to pay for some infrastructure for its project.
“I think they perhaps want more up-front money, investment, than is possible for us, although maybe not for the city,” Ballenger said.
Matt Meyer, executive director of River Parks, said Truck Yard is willing to give a three-year commitment to the project should it be built, but he described the company’s infrastructure ask as “a big number.”
“So their interest probably has waned a little bit as maybe ours has too,” Meyer said.
Clay Bird, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, said he does not think either project is dead.
“We’ve really got to talk about it and delve into it a little more,” Bird said.
He acknowledged, however, that he isn’t sure where the city would come up with funds for infrastructure for the Truck Yard project.
“I need to find out how much they are asking for,” Bird said. “If it is a particularly large number, I really don’t know where we would put it.”
Earlier this year, Truck Yard and Davies Architects responded to River Parks Authority’s request for proposals. The RFP identified four sites along the river — three of them in River West Festival Park and the one south of the 23rd Street bridge — available for possible development.
Truck Yard proposed a project called the Boat Yard.
It would include a 10,000-square-foot patio and courtyard with 3,000 to 5,000 square feet of interior bar, kitchen and restaurant seating.
Davies’ proposal, called River West Pier, would be constructed south of the 23rd Street bridge and include a restaurant, market and bar as well as access to the river for boat, kayak and canoe rentals.