The Hot Springs Board of Trustees delegated the marketing of the Majestic Hotel site to the city’s economic development contractor Tuesday, making the Hot Springs Metro Partnership the clearinghouse for all purchase offers and redevelopment proposals.
It is the first time the city’s $100,000 contract for services and the partnership includes the marketing of a specific property.
The city is the largest investor in the public-private nonprofit economic development corporation affiliated with The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
The contract, which runs from January to December of next year, prohibits the city from taking action on the Park Avenue property it acquired in 2015 until the end of the partnership’s review period on Nov. 1. All bids received by the city until September 30. will be sent to the partnership for verification.
“Our plan is to go get proposals, filter them, bring you the best one,” Scott Dews, chairman of HSMP’s Majestic Site Development Committee, told the board.
“You asked to see our criteria. We are in the process of developing that,” he said.
The contract gives HSMP the option to submit proposals by September 30. District 5 Director Karen Garcia told the board she needs to see all purchase offers as they are received.
“I would like to know it before a constituent asks me about it,” he said. “As an elected official I hope to be aware of a few things.”
City Attorney Brian Albright said the Hot Springs Metro Partnership’s proposal or bid request becomes public record once it is shared with the board. That could complicate the partnership’s marketing efforts, Dews said.
“There will be proprietary information in these proposals,” he told the board. “If all this information is made public, I don’t think we will be able to bring anyone to the table.”
The board adopted Garcia’s amendment to the resolution authorizing the deal, agreeing to include “copies of all offers to purchase to be shared with the board of directors as received” in the deal.
“I have no problem sharing that,” Dews said. “I think the difficulty we’re going to have with the developers is if all the information is made public. That’s our concern.”
Hot Springs Metro Partnership President/CEO Gary Troutman said he would be reluctant to disclose who submitted redevelopment proposals until the end of the 10-month review period.
“I don’t know if we would feel comfortable naming them depending on where we are in the process,” he told the board. “We don’t want to scare off anyone who might be a viable project for us.”
Most of the work the Hot Springs Metro Partnership does for the city is shared with the council in broad terms, as nondisclosure agreements prevent the partnership from revealing specifics about the projects it is pursuing. Troutman told the board the same level of nondisclosure in its monthly reports is likely to apply to Majestic’s marketing.
“Everything that’s not NDA is usually in there,” he said of the reports required by the partnership’s contract with the city.
“I would think this could follow the same suit. … We will be active in our recruitment, but I don’t have a feeling for how much attention we will get,” he said.
The council has made redevelopment of the Majestic one of its top priorities in 2021 and 2022. After the city’s attempt to solicit proposals in 2020 returned few responses, and the contract to build an outdoor entertainment venue on the site was suspended in July, the City Manager. Bill Burrough told directors in August the city should focus on other priorities next year.
The Hot Springs Metro Partnership offered to market the site in September. Its participation was conditioned to be the clearinghouse for all proposals and offers. Dews said HSMP did not want to be undermined by developers working outside its scope.
“We just don’t want anyone to be able to circumvent the process,” he told the council in September. “If we go out and pursue developers and bring them to Hot Springs, if all it takes is someone bringing in a real estate deal to cut the front of the line, that’s all we’re concerned about.”