The Hot Springs board of directors delegated the marketing of the Majestic Hotel site to the city’s economic development contractor Tuesday, making the Hot Springs Metro Partnership the clearing house for all purchase offers and redevelopment proposals.
It’s the first time the city’s $100,000 contract for services with the partnership includes the marketing of a specific property.
The city is the largest investor in the public-private, not-for-profit economic development corporation affiliated with the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
The contract, which runs from January through December next year, prohibits the city from taking any action on the Park Avenue property acquired in 2015 until the end of the partnership’s review period on November 1. All bids received by the city by September 30th will be forwarded to the partnership for review.
“Our plan is to take suggestions, filter them, and bring you the best one,” Scott Dews, chair of HSMP’s Majestic Site Development Committee, told the board.
“You asked about our criteria. We’re in the process of developing that,” he said.
The contract gives HSMP the opportunity to submit proposals before September 30th. District 5 director Karen Garcia told the board that all offers to purchase must be reviewed as soon as they are received.
“I’d like to know before a voter asks me about it,” she said. “As an elected official, I’m expected to be aware of certain things.”
City Attorney Brian Albright said that any proposal or offer seeking a Hot Springs Metro partnership becomes public once it is communicated to the board. Dews said this could complicate the partnership’s marketing efforts.
“Proprietary information will be included in these proposals,” he told the board. “If all this information is released, I don’t think we can bring anyone to the table.”
The board unanimously approved Garcia’s amendment to the resolution approving the contract and agreed to include “copies of all tender offers will be provided to the board as received” in the contract.
“I have no problem sharing that,” Dews said. “I think the difficulty we’re going to have with developers is that all of their information is made public. That is the concern we have.”
Gary Troutman, President/CEO of the Hot Springs Metro Partnership, said he was 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 anyone who might be a viable project for us.”
Most of the work that Hot Springs Metro Partnership does for the city is broadly shared with the board of directors, as non-disclosure agreements prevent the partnership from revealing details about the projects it is pursuing. Troutman told the board that the same level of secrecy in the monthly reports he produces will likely apply to the marketing of the Majestic.
“Anything that isn’t NDA is usually in there,” he said of the reports required by the partnership agreement with the city.
“I would think this would follow the same pattern. … We’re going to be proactive in our recruitment, but I have no sense of how much attention we’re going to get,” he said.
The board made the refurbishment of the Majestic one of its top priorities in 2021 and 2022. After the city’s attempt to solicit proposals in 2020 met with few responses and the contract to build an outdoor entertainment venue on the site in the July, City Manager Bill Burrough told directors in August the city would focus on other priorities next year.
Hot Springs Metro Partnership offered to market the site in September. Participation was conditional on being the clearing house for all suggestions and offers. Dews said HSMP does not want to be undermined by developers working outside of its remit.
“We just don’t want anybody to be able to bypass the process,” he told the board in September. “If we’re going out and chasing developers and bringing them to Hot Springs, when it just takes someone to bring a real estate contract to get it on top, that’s the only thing we’re worried about.”