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One of three firms selected by the Convention Attraction Task Force will determine the best use for a 1.7 acre tract that separates the city's Expo Center and developer John Q. Hammons' parking garage.
One of three firms selected by the Convention Attraction Task Force will determine the best use for a 1.7 acre tract that separates the city's Expo Center and developer John Q. Hammons' parking garage.

Three in line to assess downtown parcel

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The cost of an assessment of the 1.7 acres dividing the city’s Expo Center and developer John Q. Hammons’ parking garage may be less a factor than first thought.

Springfield’s Convention Attraction Task Force narrowed the field Oct. 6 to three consulting firms that submitted bids to perform an assessment of the land’s best use, said Tracy Kimberlin, Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO.

The finalists and their bid costs are: Chicago-based C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc., $51,750; Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners, $39,000; and Minneapolis-based Conventions Sports & Leisure International, $54,500. CVB officials expected study costs to reach $80,000, and the city, CVB and John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts are prepared to split the cost.

A final firm will be charged with recommending development ideas with the most market potential for the vacant tract of land that in recent years was suggested as a site for an arena, BKD LLP’s headquarters and a luxury hotel by John Q. Hammons, who owns the land and the adjacent Jordan Valley Car Park.

The CVB sent out requests for proposal to 15 firms, and seven submitted proposals by the Sept. 15 deadline. At $80,000, Chicago-based HVS Convention Sports & Entertainment Facilities Consulting submitted the highest bid, followed by Orlando-based Real Estate Research Consultants Inc. at $75,000.

Experience in the region and with cities similar in size to Springfield, not cost, led board member Rodney Nichols to his selection.

“We were looking for the most qualified companies and the ones that we thought would bring the most to the table,” said Nichols, an attorney at Carnahan, Evans, Cantwell & Brown, who represents the city’s Tax Increment Financing Commission. “It just so happened that the three selected were ones that were not at the high end of the cost range.”

Each finalist demonstrated experience working in the Midwest and provided clear answers to the RFP, factors that swayed committee member Howard Fisk, who owns J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc. and represents the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce board.

“They’re from middle America, and they sort of understand the markets in the Midwest,” Fisk said.  

Fisk said much may be gained from the finalists’ presentations and the resulting analysis of how Springfield can better brand itself in the convention marketplace.

“Part of it’s just perception,” Fisk said. “Every purchase you make is not because it’s the best product, it’s because you believe it’s the best product. I think we’re going to get more than just a simple evaluation out of these three teams.”

Kimberlin said in the best-case scenario, the study would be finished by the end of the year.

“I’ll be scheduling presentations with the three firms that made the short list as soon as possible,” Kimberlin said. “By the time we coordinate everybody’s schedules, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re into November.”

Fisk estimated turnaround time for a consulting group to complete a report is between 10 and 12 weeks.

“It will probably be after the first of the year when we actually have a report from one of these groups,” he added.

In addition to analyzing the 1.7-acre lot adjacent to the Expo Center, the chosen firm will compare Springfield with other cities that have convention and exposition events to determine how Springfield can best remain competitive for such bookings, according to the RFP.

Hammons bought the site and the parking deck in 2008 with the intent to build a 150-room hotel. Hammons has asked for and received multiple extensions to begin construction due to difficulty obtaining financing for the estimated $50 million project. The city and Hammons agreed to the feasibility study this summer after negotiations for another extension stalled.

The Convention Attraction Task Force is made up of 13 people: Kimberlin; Jerry Compton, City Council member; Melissa Dallas of Missouri State University; Fred Ellison, citizen-at-large; Fisk; John Ford, CVB board member; Missy Handyside, representative of the Springfield Hotel & Lodging Association; Steve Minton and Scott Tarwater of JQH Hotels & Resorts; Nichols; Mary Lilly Smith of the city’s economic development department; John Whittington, businessman-at-large; and Rusty Worley of Urban District Alliance. Each member of the committee ranked the seven companies and the three highest ranking were selected.[[In-content Ad]]

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