Tuesday, September 14, 2010

20 firms interested in events center project

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 12:00 AM CDT

Two hours before Monday's 5 p.m. deadline, 20 architectural firms had responded to a "request for qualifications" -- or RFQ -- to design Owensboro's downtown events and convention center.

Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves said he wasn't anticipating more responses, but didn't rule it out.

Twenty responses is adequate, Reeves said.

"I'm very pleased with 20," Reeves said. "That actually represents a few more than I thought we'd probably get. I'm very pleased to have this many to choose from."

The convention and events center is an estimated $27 million project. Reeves said the firms responding to the RFQ are from all over the country, with some from the Owensboro region. Previously, some of the companies said they planned to partner with local companies.

As of Monday afternoon none of the proposals had been opened. That will happen today, Reeves said, with each member of the events center steering committee receiving copies of each submission. The steering committee members will have 10 days to two weeks to look them over, Reeves said.

The RFQ required architectural firms to be prepared to design a facility that will host conventions, trade shows and other events, but also be the key element for the revitalization of downtown Owensboro. The RFQ contained six specific goals for the center, starting with "To create a highly competitive public assembly venue that will provide modern, state-of-the-art meeting and exhibition facilities superior to comparable communities in the region and attract the potential markets as specified in the feasibility study."

Another goal of the center is for it to serve as an "icon for the community that celebrates the vision, vitality and progress of Owensboro's downtown revitalization."

The responses from architects will be evaluated by Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire, Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne and Titan Contracting owner Mike Horn, all members of the steering committee planning the convention and events center. Haire is chairman of the committee. He, Payne and Horn will recommend an architect for the entire committee's consideration. Eventually, four to seven firms will be interviewed. By mid-October, the list of candidates is expected to be narrowed to two or three companies. At that point, final negotiations with the firms will begin, Reeves said.

"All of them will have good qualifications, but some will fit us better than others," Reeves said.

Firms were required to submit their qualifications to provide a wide range of design work for the center to include a "full range of architectural, design, landscape, engineering, cost estimates and construction oversight services from initial conceptual design through construction administration." They will be evaluated on their understanding of the goals of the convention center, the quality of their work, their experience in designing comparable projects and their ability to work collaboratively with clients and their respect for the project's budget and schedule.

CityVisions and partner consulting firm ConsultEcon of Boston have recommended a building containing up to 138,350 square feet and featuring a 40,000-square-foot, dividable convention space, four ballrooms totaling 14,000 square feet, a room overlooking the Ohio River and a lecture hall with tiered seating.