The south end of Main Street has become a people and development magnet. Surprisingly however, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation received only one response to its request for proposals (RFP) to construct three buildings at Canalside. According to WGRZ, the “multi-million dollar proposal is from a local developer.”
Based upon project meetings that were attended by representatives from more than a dozen construction, engineering, and architecture firms, many believed there would be multiple bids. A deadline extension from January 9 to January 29 further fueled speculation that firms asked for more time to complete their submissions. That was wishful thinking.
There are at least two potential reasons for the sole response. One, developers may have sensed that ECHDC was favoring one firm and preparing a costly proposal would be futile. Or, most likely, the RFP was too limiting. ECHDC dictated that proposals were required to include certain mandatory design and programming features such as providing space for the Explore & More Children’s Museum, a Canalside Information Center, and the Erie Canalway Trail Milepost Zero plaza. There were also building size guidelines for each site though ECHDC was allowing some flexibility if a developer could justify a change.
Developers were encouraged to follow Fontanese, Folts, Aubrecht & Ernst’s schematic designs for the parcels (above and below). While the ECHDC has committed $8 million in funding for the construction of the Explore & More Children’s Museum core & shell space, the developer was required to lease the 40,000 sq.ft. of space to the Museum for $1 per year for 30 years with a 10-year option. Building size constraints, expensive design features, and limited space for private sector tenants likely caused headaches for potential bidders.
In the end, if the one proposal is solid from a proven developer, meets the design expectations laid out in the design guidelines, and does not require a significant subsidy beyond the money committed for the museum construction, one may be good enough.
More will be known when the ECHDC Board of Directors next meets February 9. According to the RFP, the development designation is expected to be made April 13.