City looking for developers for State Street project

Six years ago, city officials were celebrating the groundbreaking of the State Street Plaza, a large, mixed-use affordable housing project in the heart of downtown.  After a series of missteps by the project’s developers, La Porte Group, the project went bankrupt leaving several floors of steel and concrete as a reminder of its failure.

Now city officials are ready to try again.  On February 21, the city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA), released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the former State Street Plaza project on the 200 South block of State Street.

Interested developers will have until April 23, 2018, to submit an RFQ.  Under the RFQ process, developers submit documents that establish their ability to effectuate successful projects, especially public/private partnerships like the State Street project will be.  After the RFQ’s are received, RDA officials will enter into a development agreement with the selected developer.

Unlike with Request for Proposals (RFP), the city will not be selecting a design proposal but a development partner.  A final project proposal won’t be released until the city has selected the developer and finalizes the terms of the development agreement.  Under the RFQ, officials expressed a preference for developers with experience with urban infill and mixed-income developments.

According to the RFQ, the selected developer will need to design a new project, “containing a vibrant mix of uses, including affordable and market rate housing, ground floor commercial, resident amenity spaces, a publicly accessible mid-block walkway connecting State Street with Floral Street, preservation of a historic structure on the property and parking improvements.”

The original State Street Plaza proposal called for a ten-story building with ground floor commercial space, a pedestrian plaza, a pedestrian walkway connecting State Street to Floral and Edison Streets and 180 residential units, 135 of which would have been income-restricted.

Last year the RDA regained ownership of State Street property at a bank auction after the bank seized the property when La Porte went into bankruptcy.

The project’s 1.12 acres are in the D-1 (Central Business District) zone that allows for mid-block building heights up to 100 feet.  The developers could exceed that height limit by going through the Conditional Building and Site Design Review process.

The city will demolish the five steel-framed floors that are structurally deficient but the selected developer will be responsible for any additional site remediation.

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