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BSD may take new approach to fill retail vacancies

By David Hohendorf

The governing board of the Birmingham Business District (BSD) this week voted to reject the latest applicants for the now open contract position of retail recruitment and move forward on a possible new path to finding a way to tap the expertise of the real estate community for filling vacant commercial space in the city's downtown area.

The BSD has been attempting to find a new retail recruitment firm to replace the most recent firm, CC Consulting, that had the contract until earlier this year when the tense relationship between the firm's principal, Cindy Ciura, and the city ended with the BSD withdrawing a one-year contract extension offer.

CC Consulting since 2019 had been acting on the city's behalf to help fill vacant retail spaces in the downtown of Birmingham.

The BSD Business Development Committee had suggested in April of this year that the contract with CC Consulting be extended one year but questions were raised about long-standing terms of the contract and the BSD board agreed to tighten up some portions of the contract, including codified terms of who the company would report to in the BSD structure as well as setting forth more specific goals of the types of businesses the city would prefer to see in the commercial mix of the downtown.

Past contracts with retail recruitment firms generally paid about $75,000 annually, along with performance commissions.

Although the BSD had offered a one-year extension of the contract with CC Consulting, principal Ciura objected to some of the new terms and questioned whether the city had paid her all funds due under a prior contract. The interim director of the BSD at that time, assistant city manager Jana Ecker, said that the city reviewed past payments to the firm and the city actually paid more than the annual cap of the contract allowed and no further payments would be made.

The BSD board ultimately decided to withdraw the earlier contract extension offer. At the same time, the BSD voted in August to promote the open position and received only two applications by the September deadline.

At the meeting this Thursday, January 4, Business Development Committee Co-chairperson Mike McKenzie told BSD board members that the committee was recommending that those responding to the latest RFP effort be rejected because they were “suboptimal.” McKenzie also said the panel was looking into creating an “incentive-based program” for local realtors in an effort to build a recruitment team approach to fill retail vacancies. The new possible approach will be reviewed by the city attorney and a new “scaled-down RFP” would be issued in the future.

McKenzie also said the committee was almost done with an analysis of the existing mix of retail in the downtown area which would be part of future efforts to bring businesses to the downtown area.

The BSD board approved on a unanimous voice vote the committee's recommendation to reject proposals received by the September 28 deadline.


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