In mid-August, West Hartford officials received seven proposals for a hotel development on a parcel of land the town owns on Raymond Road across from Blue Back Square.
Now those proposals have been reviewed and three have been identified as finalists. Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said interviews with those firms will be held on Oct. 2, Oct. 3, and Oct. 15.
According to Van Winkle, all of the original seven proposals were impressive and the town was pleased to have attracted that many potential developers. "The objective was not to eliminate any proposal from consideration altogether but to focus on the proposals which appeared to be the most promising from an admittedly preliminary review," Van Winkle said in an email.
Van Winkle, Community Services Director Rob Rowlson, Assessor Chris Johnson, and Deputy Corporation Counsel Pat Alair reviewed the submissions and will conduct the upcoming round of interviews.
Van Winkle said proposals by Roedel, Hospitality 3, and Delamar have been identified as the finalists, and those groups will be interviewed this month. He said via email that the selection was based on many factors, including (not in order of priority):
- "Thoroughness and professionalism of response;
- "The apparent thoughtfulness/ sensitivity of the proposal to the issues and concerns of the Town as expressed in the RFP;
- "The apparent level of knowledge, skill and background of the proposing team;
- "The apparent “value” of the proposal to the Town, both in monetary terms and in terms of potential long-term benefit to land values, business prosperity and the reputation of West Hartford; and
- "Awareness of the importance of this site to the image, character and reputation of West Hartford, as demonstrated by initial design concepts."
Through the interview process, officials will continue to consider demonstrated experience, the ability to complete the project, financial backing, and the type of concept that is being proposed.
Van Winkle said that following the interview process additional applicants may be interviewed.
"One of the concerns you always have is that you agree to sell a piece of property and then they don't build right away," Van Winkle said. He anticipates that the town will also meet with the financial backers before finalizing a decision on a proposal.
If a proposal is selected after completion of the round of interviews, the final agreement between the town and that company will be crafted by attorneys with experience in real estate matters of this nature, Van Winkle said. Complete site plans will also be required for submission to zoning.
"We don't develop hotels or sell land very often. We will be vetting this very carefully," said Van Winkle. Since the parcel is a Special Development District, it must include "full-blown detail," he said.
Once that agreement has been finalized, the developer will submit plans to the Town Council. Van Winkle anticipates a public hearing on that proposal sometime after Jan. 1, 2013.
The RFP issued by the Town of West Hartford to potential developers stated: "The Town of West Hartford is interested in working with a development team which has substantial experience in the planning, construction and operation of a full service hotel. The property will be sold or leased 'as-is.' The preferred proposal will reflect purchase or long-term lease options which best meet the needs of hotel developers and the overall financial, planning, zoning, commercial and social interests of the community."