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Bid process tilts project to developer

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Friday, May 17, 2019

The stringent requirements and short response period set this week by the Rocky Mount City Council for a downtown hotel and parking garage make it highly likely the only developer able to apply for the job is the one already working hand-in-hand with City Hall on the project.

"This is for the gentleman, or, uh, a developer," Mayor David Combs said during his introduction of the requirements at Monday's City Council meeting.

Involved in the project from the very beginning, first with a feasibility study then as builder, is Tennessee developer David Hunt. He said in introducing the project in mid-February that he has been working closely with city management, visiting Rocky Mount nine times since July.

The city's guidelines for submittal call for a site plan, a construction timeline, the brand of the hotel the developer will build and more — all due within a seven-day time frame, which ends at noon Tuesday.

No developer could meet all those requirements in a week unless they've already been working on it, according to a local developer familiar with the matter.

The city released a Request for Qualifications to provide guidelines to allow for the most qualified vendor to submit a proposal in a competitive bid process.

The project includes:

■ A 100-bed minimum brand name hotel constructed adjacent to the Event Center.

■ A minimum of 20,000 square feet of retail space within walking distance of the Event Center.

■ A minimum of 60 residential units within walking distance of the Event Center.

■ One or two above ground parking garages with a minimum total of 480 spaces.

"I think the private side of this is close to $28 million and the public side is around $27 million," Combs said when introducing the item.

Bridget Chisholm of BWC Consulting discussed with city officials in November expanding taxes for the project while addressing Hunt as the developer for the project.

"Our sense is that once additional local revenue sources (e.g. property tax and possible special district sur-tax) are accounted for the city will come close to break-even regarding the developer's ask from the city. We prefer to have your finance team provide those numbers as they are most familiar," Chisholm told city officials in a Nov. 12 email obtained recently by the Telegram via a public records request.

Chisholm also asked about the current downtown tax and the process to expand its boundary.

The hotel development requirements item was added to the agenda at the end of Monday's meeting. The council unanimously approved the item without questions or public comment. An advertisement for the Request for Qualifications appeared in the Telegram on Tuesday and would have had to be placed prior to Monday night's approval.

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