Imperial Site Bids released by city
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Bids for development at the Imperial Tobacco property have been published online by the city of Greenville, after several months of withholding their release.
Greenville officials sought bids from firms to carry out conceptual designs for the 86-acre site after a City Council vote in June. The bids were to be opened on Sept. 15, and a public discussion was expected to follow at a subsequent council meeting.
Since then, the bids have not been discussed at any City Council meeting, and despite repeated requests by The Daily Reflector, have remained out of the public eye. The bids were published on Wednesday on a city website page that provides an overview of the project. Certain information that was deemed sensitive or potentially harmful to the bidding developers was redacted by the city.
The three proposals for the development of the site come from The Keith Corporation out of Charlotte, Armada Hoffler, of Virginia Beach, and Hallmark Communities and Seacoast Communities out of Mount Pleasant, SC. The bid from The Keith Corporation is for a partial portion of the total site, where they hope to construct a large office building. The other two bids are for the complete development of the site.
Bids from Armada Hoffler and Hallmark both propose a large amount of housing development mixed with commercial space and a large office building.
The Hoffler proposal consists of 325 residential units, 21,380 square feet of retail area, 62,008 square feet of office space and 1,251 parking spaces. According to the site plan included in Hoffler’s bid, housing would be spread largely throughout four medium-sized buildings and one large building on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bonners Lane, attached to a parking garage. The office space would mostly be located in a large office building on the south side of the site, at the intersection of Dickenson and Atlantic avenues.
The proposal from Hallmark consist of 315 residential units, 15,000 square feet of retail space, 66,000 square feet of office space and 1,131 parking spaces. The layout of the spacing is similar to Hoffler’s layout, with the same large three-story apartment complex and three-story office space. It is not clear in either proposal if the housing is specifically student targeted.
The city’s release of the bids is compliant to the repeated requests of the Daily Reflector. Originally the city denied the release of the bids in accordance to North Carolina General Stature 132-6(d), and again denied a follow-up request for the bids with redacted details, as suggested by North Carolina Press Association General Counsel, Amanda Martin.
“In accordance with NCGS 132-6(d), the city is withholding the release of proposals received for the former Imperial Tobacco site until a developer for the project has been identified,” City Attorney Emanuel McGirt said in an email on on Nov. 14.
“Any release of the requested information prior to the selection of a partner could adversely affect the selection process. We are excited about the potential of a public-private partnership for the former Imperial Tobacco warehouse site, and we anticipate selecting a partner for this highly anticipated project in the near future. We look forward to sharing more details once the selection process is complete.”
According to Brock Letchworth, the public information officer for the city, no specific change resulted in the city reversing its decision regarding the bids. He said that releasing the bids with the sensitive information redacted seemed like a “good compromise” between getting the information out to the public and protecting the developers privacy.
“I think that it was just a general consensus among staff and council that it would be a good thing to get out there for the public to view what the proposals are,” he said.
Imperial Tobacco operated a processing plant at the site from the 1900s. The property was optioned by a developer in the mid-2000s but it burned down in 2008.
The city purchased the site for $1 in 2012 and used a $400,000 federal Brownfield grant to clean up toxins left from the fire and plant operations. After the cleanup was complete, the city council voted to purchase the site in 2016 for $1.04 million.
In September 2016, the council contracted with Development Finance Initiative of Chapel Hill to facilitate development of the site.
DFI presented multiple options to the council at the June meeting. The council approved a concept that reinvests revenues from the development of some sections of the property to ensure affordable housing is included elsewhere on the land.
The site is expected to attract approximately $68 million in private investment if the plan comes to fruition, officials said in June.
It is not clear when the bids will be presented to City Council. It is possible they will be discussed at the City Council retreat at the end of the month or during the February council meetings.
Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth