Developers interested in Capital Plaza have until Oct. 15 to submit information

From left, Tourism Director Robin Antenucci, Downtown Frankfort Inc. Director Kelly Everman, Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells, Frankfort City Manager Cindy Steinhauser, Franklin County Third District Magistrate Don Sturgeon and City Commissioner Tommy Haynes meet during Wednesday’s Capital Plaza Community Engagement Committee meeting at the Fiscal Court Building at 321 W. Main St. (David Hamilton | The State Journal)

The door for developers to begin vying for 6.4 acres of former Capital Plaza land is officially open.

A request for information, or RFI, is open until 3:30 p.m. Oct. 15, at which point local officials will know exactly how many companies are interested in developing the state-owned land known as Parcel B, City Manager Cindy Steinhauser said Wednesday during a Capital Plaza Community Engagement Committee meeting. The land formerly housed the Frankfort Convention Center and Fountain Place Shops.

The RFI asks developers to provide information that includes background about their organizations, a development concept, timeline and cost estimates for their conceived projects and potential barriers to entry.

Once the table has been set for companies to submit actual proposals, local and state governments — which are collaborating on developing the land via a public-private partnership — will issue a request for proposals. With the new state office building that is going up on Capital Plaza land six months ahead of schedule, Steinhauser said she intends to have the RFP for Parcel B issued by January or early February at the latest.

Developers will then respond to the RFP with specific proposals and costs, and the governmental entities will be able to select which they deem to be the best proposal.

Before all that happens, those who drafted Frankfort’s downtown master plan — which includes a recommendation of street-level commercial space and upstairs rental housing on Parcel B — will present concepts of the plan one last time to each local government this month. Barry Alberts of CityVisions will be available for both the Franklin County Fiscal Court and Frankfort City Commission meetings, Steinhauser said.

To that point, County Judge-Executive Huston Wells asked if the Fiscal Court would be able to provide input or suggest changes in the master plan.

Steinhauser responded that she believes the point of these meetings is to hear public officials’ thoughts on the recommendations, but she also stated that she wouldn’t want the opinions of a few officials to negate public input that was used to draft the plan.

Agreeing with that point, Kentucky Capital Development Corp. President and CEO Terri Bradshaw said having the plan be hindered by two or three dissenting officials would defeat the purpose of what the group has been working toward.

“The plan is supposed to be the plan of the people,” Bradshaw said. “The people have pretty well spoken.”

The draft of the master plan, which includes CityVisions and Gamble Associates’ suggestions to develop housing and businesses on Parcel B, construct a boathouse via a civic fundraising project and renovate the pedestrian bridge at the end of Broadway Avenue, is available for viewing at www.spiritofdowntownfrankfort.com. The plan also includes a recommendation for a hotel and conference center on land currently occupied by the Franklin County Farmers Market.

Franklin County 3rd District Magistrate Don Sturgeon asked if officials had a ballpark estimate of a total cost for what the plan proposes.

“It’s fair to say that it’s tens of millions of dollars,” Steinhauser said.

A more specific figure, however, will be calculated once CityVisions comes up with a final document on which governments will actually vote, though Steinhauser said that would not happen at this month’s meetings. Steinhauser said that is one of the items Alberts is working right now to determine, along with means of implementing proposed projects.

The Capital Plaza Development Advisory Committee plans to formally make a recommendation to the City Commission and Fiscal Court in November. If both boards approve the recommendation, the committee must then take the recommendations to the state for approval on or before Dec. 15.

The DAC consists of nearly every member of the Community Engagement Committee but has separate roles that were spelled out in the agreement between state and local governments known as a memorandum of agreement. A citizen representative will serve on the DAC but has yet to be selected by Steinhauser and Frankfort Mayor Bill May.

During a public-comment portion of Wednesday’s committee meeting — in which both of the two attendees spoke — Frankfort attorney John Gray asked the group to do a better job communicating to the public what happens at their meetings.

Various officials responded that the group is doing its best to comprehend information during a convoluted, unfamiliar process and relay it to the public. Steinhauser and Bradshaw encouraged the public to attend the meetings and also pointed to time constraints as part of the problem.

“That being said, that’s not an excuse,” Bradshaw said. “We can do better about communicating what’s going on here.”

Gray suggested that Downtown Frankfort Inc. include a summary of the Capital Plaza meetings in its newsletter. DFI Director Kelly Everman said she would do what she could to make it happen.

The second public commenter, 2nd District Magistrate Fred Goins said he believes the most important aspect of the downtown master plan is the proposal to extend Washington Street past Broadway, which would effectively reintegrate the former Capital Plaza property into the downtown grid. Goins said officials should begin discussing putting that project into motion immediately.

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