The Hot Springs Board of Directors on Tuesday delegated the marketing of the Majestic Hotel site to the city’s economic development contractor, making the Hot Springs Metro Partnership the clearinghouse for all offers to purchase and redevelopment proposals.
This is the first time the city’s $100,000 services contract with the partnership has included the marketing of a specific property.
The city is the largest investor in the nonprofit public-private economic development corporation affiliated with the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
The contract, which runs from January to December next year, prohibits the city from acting on the Park Avenue property it acquired in 2015 until the end of the partnership verification period on November 1 next. All bids the city receives by September 30 will be forwarded to the partnership for verification.
“Our plan is to go after proposals, filter them, bring you the best one,” local bank manager Scott Dews, chairman of HSMP’s Majestic site development committee, told the board.
“You asked to see our criteria. We are developing them,” he said.
The contract gives HSMP the opportunity to submit proposals by September 30. District 5 Director Karen Garcia told the council she needs to see all offers to buy as they come in.
“I would like to know about it before a voter asks me the question,” she said. “As an elected official, I’m expected to be aware of certain things.”
City Attorney Brian Albright said proposals or solicitation offers from the Hot Springs Metro Partnership become a public record once they are shared with the board. Dews said that could complicate the partnership’s marketing efforts.
“There will be proprietary information in these proposals,” he told the board. “If all of this information is made public, I don’t think we’ll be able to bring anyone to the table.”
The board unanimously passed Garcia’s amendment to the resolution authorizing the contract, agreeing to include “copies of all offers to purchase shall be shared with the board as received” in the contract. .
“I have no problem sharing this,” Dews said. “I think the difficulty we’re going to have with developers is that all of their information is made public. That’s our concern.”
Hot Springs Metro Partnership President and CEO Gary Troutman said he would be reluctant to disclose who submitted redevelopment proposals before the end of the 10-month audit period.
“I don’t know if we would be comfortable naming them based on where we are in the process,” he told the board. “We don’t want to scare anyone who might be a viable project for us.”
Most of the work Hot Springs Metro Partnership does for the city is shared with the board on general terms, as nondisclosure agreements prevent the partnership from revealing details about the projects it is pursuing. Troutman told the board that the same level of non-disclosure in monthly reporting that he does is likely to apply to marketing the Majestic.
“Anything that’s not NDA is usually in there,” he said of the reporting required by the City Partnership Agreement.
“I think it would kind of follow the same lead. … We’re going to be proactive in our recruiting, but I have no idea how much attention we’re going to get,” he said.
The council has made redevelopment of the Majestic one of its top priorities in 2021 and 2022. After the town’s attempt to solicit proposals in 2020 returned few responses, and the contract to build an entertainment venue outdoors on the site was terminated in July, City Manager Bill Burrough told administrators in August that the city would focus on other priorities next year.
Hot Springs Metro Partnership has offered to market the site in September. His involvement was conditioned on being the clearing house for all proposals and offers. Dews said HSMP doesn’t want to be undermined by developers working outside of its purview.
“We just don’t want anyone to be able to circumvent the process,” he told the board in September. “If we go out and chase developers and bring them to Hot Springs, if all it takes is someone to bring a real estate contract to get to the top of the list, that’s the only thing we care about. .”
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