Conway Block Plant is a complete renovation of an abandoned masonry manufacturing complex in downtown Conway, AR to become a 30,000 SF start-up incubator and maker space for the city.
The complex is positioned on the southern edge of downtown bordered by an active railway and the number one ranked private K-12 school in the city. The site is in comfortable walking or biking distance from all basic services, which will make this project immensely attractive to the tech start-ups created in the area. Over the past decade, Conway has become a regional technology hub for Central Arkansas benefiting from having three colleges located in town. This project is creating the rich, interactive, scalable environments that small companies often move to Little Rock to find. Conway has made a reputation for being a family friendly community with low crime and great schools, located just 25 minutes northwest of Little Rock. In the past, large majorities of people have commuted from Conway to Little Rock for work, especially younger entrepreneurs. This project is our attempt to attract and retain the vast amount of talent that the local universities produce by providing vivid, energetic, and dynamic office environments that are centrally located to take advantage of all the wonderful amenities that Conway has to offer.
The original structure will remain in place with many of the existing cladding and interior materials being reused and repurposed. The existing aged corrugated metal roof will become exterior cladding on the north and south elevations. A new roof and insulation will be installed to meet the projects energy needs. The center open pavilion will be enclosed as lease space and a new shared main entry and lobby volume will be created to tie the individual leasable areas together. Since the complex has been vacant for years, it has amassed a wonderful collection of graffiti. The developer recognizes the wonderful potential of graffiti as a viable art form and wants to incorporate its raw energy and individual expression into the character of the project. The old block kilns will be cut into smaller work areas where creative ideas can still be baked up. Skylights have been added to the kiln spaces instead of west facing windows to reduce train noise by minimizing penetrations to the west wall. The metal tubes for firing and some of the metal material chutes, hoppers, and grates are being repurposed as structure and furniture. The main truss framed conveyor belt will become the entry portal and signage. The batch mixing tower’s main chute will be salvaged and converted into a skylight above a shared break area and the low mixing chutes are being inverted to become covered outdoor seating. The dynamic incubator layout allows for tenants to grow within the campus with the ability to rent areas as small as a desk in lease space “C”, then moving to a small office, small suite, large suite, all the way up to a 7,000 SF individual lease space all while sharing the same lobby, lounge, breakroom, bathrooms, showers, locker area, and bike storage. The shared common spaces mixed with the on-site coffee shop and 3,000 SF of outdoor seating allow for a fertile, collaborative environment for tenants to freely network and cultivate their ideas.
For Conway being designated as the “City of Colleges” and renown for higher education, this project will be the evolutionary next step for emerging professionals to hone their abilities and practice innovation in a familiar campus setting.