City-owned utility company Conway Corp. has invested in putting together a master plan to see the long-term potential of being able to stay in Downtown Conway.
Rik Sowell and Liz Hamilton of Rik Sowell Architects, Inc. have been working on Conway Corp.’s Prairie Street campus master plan for about four months. The plan was officially presented to the Conway Corp. Board of Directors at a meeting on Tuesday.
CEO of Conway Corp. Ritchie Arnold said he had each manager at the Prairie Street campus forecast how many employees they will need for the next 15 years.
Currently Conway Corp. has 122 parking spaces and is basically out of office space, he said. “We may have one cubicle on the whole campus that’s open,” he said, “and parking is as much a problem as office space.”
The master plan will ensure all future development works well with existing structures, and maintains a balance of workspaces with adequate parking.
Phase one of the plan includes the construction of a new 28,000-30,000-square-foot anchor building on the corner of Locust and Prairie streets.
The building will be three stories of offices with a community room and ground floor retail space overlooking an outdoor plaza similar to Rogers Plaza in front of the Conway Chamber of Commerce building on Oak Street.
Hamilton said the retail space would be an open area at about a story-in-a-half with street facing glass displays that would rival competitors like Verizon and Apple.
The back of the building would include a two-lane drive through for customer bill pay.
In order to accommodate more employees and customers, the “rock house” and “white house” on Locust Street would be demolished to make way for an expanded parking lot.
The new parking lot would include two boulevard entrances, one on Prairie Street, the other on Locust Street, with Conway Corp. monument signs at each.
The entrance-only and exit-only driveways that currently exist on Prairie would be consolidated into one.
“We see this new building as making a good statement about downtown,” Sowell said.
With a building that is brought to the property line, streetscaping and a hidden parking lot, Sowell said the master plan complies with City of Conway downtown design standards.
Phase two would remove the existing drive through, and renovate Conway Corp.’s existing building into office space.
Arnold said when the existing drive through is demolished; the parking lot will be used primarily for employee parking, but could also be utilized as additional downtown parking after hours.
Replacing the drive through is paramount, Arnold said, as the current system is intermittent and it’s hard to find someone who can work on the outdated system.
Phase three consists of the demolition of the apartment building at the corner of Locust and Deer streets where it will be replaced by a 12,400-square-foot, two-story office building.
Arnold said he anticipates as the company grows, the IT Department will eventually move from its new headend building on Deer Street into this building, but not for at least another 10-12 years, he said.
The final phase would include demolishing the existing IT office building to make way for an expanded employee parking lot of 90 spaces, bringing the total number of spaces to 226.
Arnold said when he first started this process he wasn’t optimistic that Conway Corp. would be able to stay downtown more than 15 years, but by building vertical he thinks they can.
He also said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of parking spaces the company would be able to retain.
Arnold said he plans to talk with Rik Sowell Architects about putting together a design contract for board approval in February, which will include a timeline for design and construction of phase one.