|By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer,
Owensboro, Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 15, 2009--Just any hotel will not do for downtown Owensboro.
To begin with, it must be a "full service hotel recognized by the convention and meetings markets."
The list of requirements hardly ends there. The hotel will have at least 150 rooms but preferably 225 and complement activities on the planned market square plaza with retail, restaurant and other amenities on its ground floor. It must be a corporate managed, national or international chain-affiliated hotel geared primarily to serve the convention and group-meeting markets with quality on par with convention center hotels in other U.S. cities.
These requirements and many others are part of a RFP (request for proposals) issued Thursday by the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. The group is seeking a developer to build a hotel as part of the nearly $80 million master plan to redevelop downtown Owensboro, known officially as the "Downtown Owensboro Placemaking Initiative."
Interested private developers need to get busy. The RFP is a 4,500-word document, including the introduction, and the deadline to submit proposals is at 5 p.m. Aug. 1 -- 79 days from today.
The EDC will select a developer for the hotel, subject to the approval of the Owensboro City Commission. That recommendation is scheduled to be ready by late fall. A team made up of EDC staff members, Gateway Planning consultants and representatives from city and county governments will review the proposals and recommend a developer.
Nick Brake, president of the Economic Development Corp., said developers, including some locally, were expressing interest in the project even before the RFP was issued. He is confident there are local developers able to handle the hotel project, but the RFP will be distributed widely, he said. It will be advertised in newspapers and placed on various Web sites familiar to developers, including the Urban Land Institute.
"We also had a pre-existing list of developers that have expressed interest in the project and we have a large contact list of developers that we will directly distribute to," Brake said. "It's on our Web site (edc.owensboro.com)."
In their submissions, developers will be required to show a list of completed projects, relevant experience, references of each of their team members and a detailed description of between one and four projects similar in scope to the Owensboro hotel, along with a project schedule and financing method.
The RFPs will be judged on five equally weighted criteria:
-- "Previous experience with similar projects.
-- "Best value to Owensboro; including, but not limited to, the utilization, where feasible and appropriate, of professionals, contractors, suppliers, etc. located in Owensboro or Daviess County, or affiliated with other entities in Owensboro and/or Daviess County; as well as leveraging and supporting additional investment and development under the Downtown Master Plan.
-- "Demonstrated commitment to the Downtown Master Plan including, but not limited to, coordinating with and complementing the function, design and architecture of the future convention center; as well as embracing cultural activities downtown, and the history and heritage of Owensboro.
-- "Ability to provide required equity and debt financing.
-- "Project innovation, creativity, practicality and ability to minimize risk to Owensboro."
Additionally, the building program, ownership structure and operating plans proposed by developers will be evaluated on the basis of how well they meet the EDC's and the city's objectives for a hotel, their benefit to Owensboro and overall quality of the project.
A good proposal, according to the RFP, will show an understanding of any available state incentives for the project. The site of the hotel on the current state office building property qualifies for new markets tax credits financing, a federal program that provides tax credit incentives to investors in communities that are economically distressed or have low-income populations.
Glenn Higdon, chairman and chief executive officer of LinGate Hospitality of Owensboro, said his company may be interested in submitting a proposal if the hotel can be profitable.
"We haven't seen it (the RFP) yet, so it depends on what they want to do," he said.
LinGate has developed about 30 hotels in nine states, mostly Hiltons and Marriotts, Higdon said.
Steve Vied, 691-7297, firstname.lastname@example.org
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