After two contentious city commission meetings debating the qualifications and suitability of two qualified groups which had submitted request for proposals (RFPs) to update the city's comprehensive master plan, Birmingham city commissioners on Monday, October 29, by a vote of 4-3, approved the contract of DPZ Partners, LLC, to provide professional services to prepare an update to the city's comprehensive master plan.
Commissioners had previously postponed making a decision on approving a contract for the city's master plan update at their meeting on September 17, for a group helmed by DPZ of Miami, which created the city's 2016 Plan. The group led by DPZ, which includes the Birmingham-based Gibbs Planning Group and McKenna Associates, was recommended to the commission by the ad hoc master plan selection committee after interviewing and hearing formal presentations from DPZ, formerly known as Duany Plater-Zybeck, and MKSK of Columbus.
At the September meeting, some commissioners were concerned reading the materials provided by DPZ were overly focused on the city's retail area, and were not looking to incorporate the neighborhoods and other subplans, and requested the ability to question MKSK. Both groups came before commissioners at the October 8 meeting.
“I'd like to put a motion on the table right away to start to approve the contract with DPZ as recommended by the ad hoc master plan selection committee, with the caveat that staff work with DPZ on the retail concerns,” commissioner Stuart Sherman said at the October 29 meeting, noting the commission wanted to make sure that DPZ did not provide another analysis on the downtown, but a greater focus on the neighborhoods.
Commissioners Carroll DeWeese and Rackeline Hoff both said they would not support the motion, noting that Andres Duany “did himself a disservice,” as DeWeese said, preferring MKSK, but would support whichever group was chosen.
“I agree that both applicants are qualified,” said mayor Andy Harris, who said he watched the previous meeting, when he was absent. “I support DPZ. Its work and guidance to the 2016 Plan; its presentation; its near unanimous approval from the ad hoc committee; and because of their emphasis on inclusion of younger members of the committee,” formed his decision.
Commissioner Mark Nickita noted that both firms are nationally-known, and he's worked with both. “We're going to be well-served either way,” he noted. “I know there's some concerns about public engagement. It's different approaches. They'll both cover what's needed. I see both teams as very credible and capable, but I'm leaning toward DPZ.”
Commissioners approved the a contract with DPZ Partners in the amount of $298,000, by a vote of 4-3, with commissioners Boutros, Harris, Nickita and Sherman in support, and commissioners Bordman, DeWeese and Hoff opposed.