Last Friday (October 5th) I sent Council an email updating them on the status of downtown redevelopment. I thought it provided a good summary of what we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and what’s next as far as moving forward the redevelopment of the block in downtown Kent that has been a target for redevelopment for about a decade — so I’ve gone ahead and posted it on the blog.
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF CITY COUNCIL
FROM: DAVE RULLER, CITY MANAGER
DATE: OCTOBER 5, 2007
SUBJECT: NEXT STEPS FOR DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT
I am writing this memo to update Council on the status of our downtown redevelopment efforts and to outline the next steps that the staff and I will be working on to solicit developers to bring to Council for consideration as a partner for redevelopment.
As you may recall, in the summer of 2006, staff recommended to not renew the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Right Dimensions since they had been unable to achieve the milestones established in the MOU. In particular, after 18 months, Right Dimensions had not been able to assemble the land in the block, and without the land there could be no redevelopment.
Based on that experience, it was evident that if redevelopment was going to happen, the City would need to facilitate land assemblage; much like the City of Hudson had done with their First and Main project. With that in mind, the staff and I have spent the last year focused on acquiring the land (either through purchase or options). And as you know, we’ve had success reaching agreements with the land owners in the block, with the exception of the parcel that Right Dimensions owns.
During this last year, we have been approached by a half dozen different developers who were interested in partnering with the City for redevelopment of the target block, but I told them the same thing that I have advised Council – our first step is to assemble the land, then we can look for a development partner.
To date, the City, and Kent State University, have secured 90% of the land so I am recommending that we now proceed to step two, and find a qualified development partner that is capable of working with us to move this redevelopment project forward.
Securing a Development Partner
There are a number of different ways to secure a development partner. With Right Dimensions, the City was approached by representatives from Right Dimensions to partner with the City, and based on the staff recommendation, Council agreed to that partnership by entering into an MOU. There was no competitive selection process used for Right Dimensions.
By contrast, the City of Hudson used a competitive Request For Proposals (RFP) process to select a development team for the First and Main Project . RFP’s are typically dual purpose: 1)they require prospective partners to demonstrate their qualifications; and 2)they ask the developer to illustrate their project concepts as a “proposal.”
In order to illustrate their concepts as a proposal, the developer candidates typically have to spend anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 for architectural fees, renderings, etc. in order to complete RFP submissions. Based on the amount of work and costs required to complete RFP’s, they are generally considered a more selective process.
A third approach would be the use of Request For Qualifications (RFQ). RFQ’s ask prospective partners to demonstrate their experience and credentials that qualifies them to be the City’s development partner – but it doesn’t ask for concept proposals. In this way, RFQ’s tend to attract more interest from developers as they are less costly, but there are still clear criteria that the successful developer will have to meet in order to be considered, so there is a legitimate selection process.
After reviewing the options, I am recommending proceeding with an RFQ to solicit statements of qualifications from development firms interested in partnering with the City, and Kent State University, to perform a redevelopment project in downtown Kent that could possibly include a new hotel/conference center, as well as new retail, restaurant and downtown residential.
What I like about an RFQ is that it allows us to identify an experienced developer that would be the best fit for Kent, and then with our partner, we can work to design the project together. To some extent, I think RFP’s tend to put more of the project design in the developer’s hands, with the City reacting to the developer’s concepts.
Given the importance of this project, and potential impact on other businesses in downtown Kent, I’d prefer to find a development partner that will sit at the table with us, and the other Kent stakeholders, to design a project that serves as an economic catalyst not just for the targeted block but for all of downtown. To do that, we’ve got to carefully plan the elements of redevelopment in the overall context of downtown and make sure that we are initiating the next phase of downtown’s transformation rather than just creating an island of redevelopment.
Development Services Contract
As you know, the City has been without a Development Director for nearly 1 year, and despite a couple of rounds of interviews, we have not been successful in finding the right candidate. Gary Locke has done a great job as interim Director, but his workload and expertise is not in development RFQ’s so I have obtained the assistance of a development services company to help draft an RFQ, evaluate the submissions, and assist in designing a project that integrates the best of the old with the best of the new. I am using the unspent salary funds from the vacant Director job to pay for this work to be done.
The amount of the contract ($10,000, with an upper limit of $20,000 depending upon how much additional work I ask for) is within my authority to spend but I still wanted to let you know my intention to pay for these services in order to keep redevelopment moving forward. I think this project is too important to let sit idle waiting for the next Development Director, and the sooner we can secure a development partner, the sooner we can get a return on our investment in the land.
I am hoping to have an RFQ drafted next week. I will circulate it to Council and if you have any questions or comments, just let me know. After that, I will advertise the RFQ and request submissions be returned within 3 weeks after the advertisement date. The staff and I will then evaluate the submissions and come up with a short list of the most qualified firm(s) to present to Council for consideration. Pending Council’s desire, we can then arrange interviews with the leading firm(s), upon completion of which I would expect us to be in a position to select the firm we want to have as our partner.
Once we have a partner we’ll need to talk further of the City’s expectations for redevelopment and how we can ensure this redevelopment builds on the success of what’s already downtown. We will also need to talk more with Kent State University to further explore the hotel/conference center concept at that time. I do not consider this redevelopment project contingent upon a hotel/conference center, but it certainly would make a great anchor to the project.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. If I don’t hear back from you I’ll presume comfortable with the approach I’ve laid out in this memorandum.