Downtown retail review proposal revamping

Birmingham city commissioners on Monday, October 29, declined to award a $50,000 contract to Gibbs Planning Group for the city's downtown retail review after learning that 16 firms had downloaded the request for proposal (RFP), but Gibbs was the only team to submit, and commissioners instead decided to discard the RFP and requested staff to redo the document.

The downtown retail review RFP was created to look at Birmingham's redline retail area and see if the border lines were appropriate, and make it more consumer-oriented, planning director Jana Ecker said. She said that while only one firm returned a finished proposal, “This has been reviewed by the city attorney. Their term is $50,000 for the work.”

She noted that the Gibbs group had added conditions that were in conflict with the RFP, and it was brought to the attention of city attorney Tim Currier, who said that since they had signed a letter of agreement as well as the RFP, they agreed to the city's terms. However, the Gibbs group presented a revised RFP to the planning board removing the conditions.

“The only concern we have from the pricing is we only received one bid, but they are willing to do everything we requested, and more so,” Ecker said.

“I'm becoming increasingly concerned – we're only receiving one bid in a lot of RFPs, so we can't compare pricing or work,” mayor pro tem Patty Bordman said. “I'm quite reluctant to award a job like this with only one response.”

“We had 16 who downloaded the RFP. We contacted, or tried to, for every firm,” Ecker said. “We got straight answers from six firms. They said either 'we're not a retail firm,' got 'we'd have to partner with someone,' or that they're overwhelmed with work right now.”

Gibbs Planning partnered with several other firms in their response to the RFP.

“Even Gibbs is teaming up – this one is six different companies. Are we asking too much?” commissioner Rackeline Hoff asked.

“I think there's a clarity issue,” commissioner Mark Nickita said. “Jana, I don't think we're asking for retail marketing analysis. It's about the physical condition of the downtown, the ordinances – which is planning. That is marketing future trends. We're not asking for a marketing analyst. We asking for a redline retail analyst.”

“Based on that comment, I would like to discard the proposal, and send it back to staff and redo the RFP,” commissioner Stuart Sherman proposed.

Commissioners unanimously agreed, voting 7-0 to send it back to staff.

“Thank you Mr. Gibbs. We invite you to rebid, and we hope you do,” said Mayor Andy Harris.

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