Two parcels of prime downtown Frankfort real estate are officially on the market.
The state Finance and Administration Cabinet announced Wednesday that it is seeking bids for the combined 11.8 acres of Capital Plaza land known as Parcels B and C.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about development of the former Frankfort Convention Center site?
The request for bid (RFB) offers up state-owned land in the Frankfort historic district — encompassing the former site of the Frankfort Convention Center and the land under the YMCA, the Capital Plaza Hotel and a state parking garage — to private developers in order to get the property on local tax rolls. And the bid requires a developer consider Frankfort’s desired use for the land in any plans.
Bidders' proposals must provide for a mixed-use development that blends residential, commercial, retail, parking, cultural, institutional or entertainment uses, according to the Finance Cabinet's press release. It also states that those functions must physically and functionally integrate and provide pedestrian connections.
Mixed-use residential and commercial on the former convention center site is a key aspect of Frankfort's recently adopted Downtown Master Plan.
The deeming of the state property as surplus and the RFB are the most recent developments for Capital Plaza redevelopment, which began with demolition of the Frankfort Convention Center and adjacent infrastructure.
In the press release, Finance and Administration Secretary William M. Landrum III said that even before the tower fell in March 2018 the plan had been to get the land on the tax rolls.
“From day one, when we made the decision to take down the Capital Plaza Tower and build a new state-of-the-art office building, my goal was to return as much public property as possible back to the private sector and onto the tax rolls of Frankfort and Franklin County,” Landrum said in the release. “After much discussion and research, we deemed selling the property through an RFB accomplishes this goal.”
As part of the terms of the RFB, a team composed of Finance Cabinet representatives and one representative each from Franklin County and the City of Frankfort will review all submissions for compliance prior to bid opening.
Mayor Bill May said he was pleased to hear the state’s RFB gives the city a seat at the table.
“It has been my vision to have a mixed-use development that includes residential, commercial, retail and other appropriate uses that will blend with what I hope can be an extension of our downtown arts and entertainment district,” May said. “Having this property sold to a private developer will put it on our tax rolls and bring in needed tax revenue not only for the city but for Frankfort Independent Schools.”
Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Houston Barber has estimated the impact from the development to be between $250,000 and $1 million in annual tax revenue for the school district. The city and county also stand to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars in new tax revenue, depending on the type of development on the sites. Currently, the land is tax-exempt.
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells said the county wanted a say in the development because not only would the county benefit from property taxes but also it split with the city the $100,000 paid to a consultant in developing the Downtown Master Plan, including mixed-use plans for Parcel B, where the convention center once stood.
“The most important thing is we keep the concept that City Visions gave us, specifically to the development of Parcel B,” Wells said. “We just wanted a voice at the table, and we’ve got that.”
At times in the Capital Plaza redevelopment discussions, concerns arose about the state’s intentions. When the Finance and Administration Cabinet offered to take over the bidding process in May in exchange for about double the acreage that would end up on the tax rolls, some local officials asked whether they would be disregarded much like they were in the decision to demolish the convention center.
But with the announcement of the RFB and its attached stipulations, at least one city commissioner said he was satisfied.
“It speaks to all those concerns,” said Commissioner John Sower. “I think we got everything we could possibly dream of. There will be naysayers, but this is the best outcome we could ask for.”
A commission colleague was not as convinced.
“I am still gravely concerned about this entire project,” said Commissioner Eric Whisman. “I was not surprised but angered by the decision to sell the entirety of the state-owned land without input from the local elected leaders.”
Whisman said that the idea of a single entity developing the land with the interest of the community in mind is “idiotic.” However, he said that if the project is handled correctly, it could be a catalyst for development in Frankfort.
Commissioners Scott Tippett and Katrisha Waldridge did not respond to requests for comment as of presstime.
For any purchaser’s offer to be considered, it must provide all required information and address all the contingencies within the RFB, the Finance Cabinet stated. That includes providing information on the developers’ experience with similar projects, their financial wherewithal, a meeting with the City of Frankfort’s Planning and Development Department to review the project’s fit for the Urban Mixed-Use District zoning designation, as well as other criteria.
May said that the tax revenue will not be the only impact on the community.
“There will also be new jobs created that will be an added benefit,” he said. “This new development is a continuation of the growth Frankfort is experiencing and will transform our community in a positive way. It is exciting to be mayor during this period of redevelopment and growth.”
Bids are due by Sept. 25.
In coming days, the Finance Cabinet will send the RFB out to its database of developers and professional organizations throughout the U.S. as well as post it online at www.surplusrealestate.ky.gov. On Aug. 19, site visits will begin being scheduled for interested parties. And on Oct. 16, sealed bids will be opened to the public at a time and location to be announced.