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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

City Selects Bloomfield/Schon as VA Home Developers

VA homes. FTM file. 
After two failed attempts at a Request for Proposal, the city of Fort Thomas switched its strategy to a Request for Qualifications.

Two developers submitted the qualifications to handle the VA homes in Tower Park. The city did not receive any bids twice on a Request for Proposal strategy where a minimum bid was set for a developer to buy the homes. Those developers were Neace Ventures of New Albany (Indiana) and Bloomfield/Schon from across the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

City Engineer Frank Twehues recommended Bloomfield/Schon in a letter to City Administrator Don Martin before Monday's council meeting and the council followed that recommendation. Ken Schon and Cathy Barnes represented the firm at the interviews on May 13 with the review committe consisting of Mayor Eric Haas, Councilman Roger Peterman, Martin, General Services Director, Ron Dill and Economic Development Director, Debbie Buckley.

The reason the council selected Bloomfield/Schon came down to experience. The firm recently completed three projects and another in the area involving historical pieces. Twehues said Neace Ventures did not demonstrate it had done anything like what is involved with the VA homes.

"This seemed to be the next best step," said John Muller, City Councilman. "These guys have a lot of experience in this specific thing. The projects look good."

There was also concern about changing the current looks to the homes. Bloomfield/Schon wanted to more involved in the project and work better with the City.

"Neace Ventures proposed to perform the abatement, rehab the infrastructure, prepare a final plat o the property and sell each structure off individually for restoration, with the exception of possibly one or two," Twehues said in the letter to Martin. "Regardless of the timeframe it would take to sell each residence, Neace Ventures was not proposing to complete any of the restoration, including the exterior. Therefore, there is the possibility that it would be several years or more before the residences would not look blighted. (Bloomfield/Schon is) open to selling a shell of a building to the right buyer who would also appreciate the historical value and complete a restoration in a timely manner. They seemed aware of the true costs associated with this project as well as thoughts and ideas to financially make the project work."

Martin said the city has not discussed a minimum bid with Bloomfield/Schon. The VA has to sell the properties to the city first. The city would then sell it to the buyer. The next step is finalizing a contract in the next two weeks.

"(Both developers) expressed concerns about completing the abatement of the property without first obtaining the deed to the property," Twehues said. "As you know, this has been a sticking point with the VA. There are options for funding as discussed, such as City financing and/or grants (although slim due to current limitations that the federal government will not provide abatement or brownfield grants to property that is owned by themselves.) We believe this is the largest obstacle to overcome at this time."

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