St. James Group Withdraws Proposal to Develop Hensley Park
At its June 25, 2013 meeting, Alexandria City Council discussed an unsolicited proposal it received from The St. James Group to build a sports and entertainment complex on the current site of Hensley Park on Eisenhower Avenue. Neither City Council nor City staff had reached any conclusion about the merits of the proposal, or had made any decisions other than the decision to evaluate it.
On August 7, 2013, the City of Alexandria was advised by the St. James Group that it is withdrawing its unsolicited proposal. The decision followed review of recently located materials that suggest restrictions on potential uses for Hensley Park, based on the sources of funding originally used to acquire the property.
Mayor Willam D. Euille commented, "We appreciate the St. James Group's interest in the City of Alexandria as a possible location for their business, and wish them well in finding a suitable location for their innovative facility. We certainly understand both the reason for their initial interest and their decision to make a change based on their concerns about restrictions on use of the Hensley Park site. We remain committed to exploring other opportunities to bring first class, high quality projects to appropriate locations within the City."
Below is the original question and answer section regarding the unsolicited proposal and City process, retained here for informational purposes only.
Questions and Answers
What was submitted to the City?
An unsolicited proposal for a major sports and entertainment complex, including a field house, aquatics center, ice rinks, gymnastics center, golf, rock climbing, and racquet club was submitted in June 2013. The complex was proposed for the site of the current Hensley Park, between Eisenhower Avenue and Interstate 495. The proposal would have been a long-term lease of the City-owned property. The following information was been provided to the City to describe the proposal:
The following documents were provided by City staff to City Council:
Were there any City-wide St. James Group-sponsored meetings scheduled?
- The St. James Group hosted the second community meeting on July 22, 2013 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Courtyard Marriott, 2700 Eisenhower Avenue. The purpose of the meeting was to further explain the proposal. This was not a City-sponsored or led meeting, and does not constitute a City public hearing.
- The St. James Group hosted the first community meeting on July 1, 2013, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Holiday Inn, 2460 Eisenhower Avenue. The purpose of the meeting was to further explain the proposal. This was not a City-sponsored or led meeting, and does not constitute a City public hearing.
What is an unsolicited proposal?
An unsolicited proposal is an application submitted by an independent group proposing use of City-owned land, without any prior request from the City. The City had not previously contemplated a new use or redevelopment for the Hensley Park site, and had not solicited suggestions for the site. The City was under no obligation to pursue this unsolicited proposal.
What was the role of the City in this process?
The City received the unsolicited proposal, and in response developed a process to fairly and transparently evaluate the proposal. The City would have used community comments and staff review and analysis to determine the potential impacts and benefits of a sports and entertainment complex, and whether or not they are sufficient to warrant the lease of the Hensley Park site. The City Manager would have presented a recommendation to City Council. If City Council determined that a sports and entertainment complex could warrant the lease, it would have directed that a Request for Proposals (RFP) be issued to allow any interested party to make a bid. If City Council determined that such a project was not warranted, it would have declined to direct the issuance of an RFP, and the process would have ended.
What is an RFP?
A Request for Proposals (RFP) would be a competitive public process by which the City issues criteria for a project and independent bidders submit proposals to complete the project. Typically, the City’s practice is to issue an RFP for any project involving development of City-owned land. After receiving the offers, the City can choose to either select one of the proposals and begin negotiations, or to reject all of them.
Had the City decided to proceed?
No. All that had happened was that an outside party had made an unsolicited proposal to the City about a potential use of City-owned land. Neither City Council nor City staff had reached any conclusion about the merits of the proposal, nor had they made any decisions other than the decision to evaluate it.
Had the City ever received an unsolicited proposal like this?
No. This was an unprecedented, unsolicited proposal. The City’s goal was to conduct a fair and transparent evaluation of the proposal to determine whether it represents potential community benefits, without bypassing the normal review and procurement processes that ensure open competition and compliance with land use approvals.
If nothing had really happened yet, why did the City post this information?
The City wanted to ensure that there was no confusion about the status of the proposal, and make it clear that no decisions have been made yet other than to evaluate it. This page provided a consistent location for current information about the process. A proactive approach to this potential project was also in keeping with the City’s public engagement principles, including transparency and early community involvement.
Who submitted the unsolicited proposal?
The proposal was submitted by The St. James Group, LLC., a private investment group.
If City Council decided to move forward with an RFP, would The St. James Group have had an unfair advantage?
No. If City Council determined that a sports and entertainment complex could be warranted as a new use for the Hensley Park site, it would have directed staff to issue an RFP. Any interested party (including The St. James Group or any other company, group, or organization) could then submit a proposal, which would be formally evaluated in accordance with the criteria published in the RFP. City Council could have selected the bid by The St. James Group, selected another bid, or chosen to end the process without selecting any bids.
What would have happened if City Council issued an RFP and selects one of the bids to move forward?
Even if an RFP had been issued and a bid had been selected, the actual implementation of the bid would have been subject to all City public processes and hearings for development projects. There would have been ample opportunity for community input. Among other steps, this would have included staff review, public meetings and hearings, and consideration by the Planning Commission and City Council.