Alexandria Seeks Proposed Projects For Riverfront

ALEXANDRIA, LA (AP) — The city of Alexandria is looking for professionals and stakeholders to step forward with ideas on how the city should transform its riverfront area into a bustling place featuring recreation and commercial development.

         They are being urged to notify the city by March 26 whether they are interested in being involved in development along the Red River in conjunction with the city's Riverfront Improvement Venture and Essential Recreation Act, known as the R.I.V.E.R. Act.

         After officials look into the feasibility of proposed projects, public input will be sought on what the community wants for the riverfront.

         The city has listed an RFI — request for information — and RFQ — request for qualifications — on the R.I.V.E.R. Act section of the Policy News/Transparency section of the city's website, Forms are available to fill out to ask questions and/or let the city know about possible projects.

         At this point, the city is in the "information gathering stage," the website notes.

         "We are asking that folks indicate their willingness to partner and submit technical questions to us on or before March 26," Mayor Jacques Roy said.

         Potential projects don't have to be fully formulated by March 26, but the city needs to know what projects are being offered. The city is not yet seeking a master plan or comprehensive plan.

         Roy likened the RFI process to "one giant community meeting."

         "We'll also have a ton of community meetings," he said.

         Later, the city will seek RFPs — requests for proposals — unless the projects suggested in the early phase are concrete enough that the city decides to proceed with those.

         "The most likely scenario is an RFI followed by intense public input, a second-stage RFQ for qualified professional assistance, and then core projects through individualized RFPs. The reason for this approach is because redevelopment on this scale faces numerous logistical, financial, and environmental obstacles," the city website explains.

         The current stage is primarily aimed at professionals, and their proposals need to be put in writing. Roy said the general public is welcome to submit ideas at this time and will have additional opportunities later.

         Jonathan Bolen, special assistant to the mayor, said that after project ideas are submitted and vetted for feasibility and the community has a chance to weigh in, "the next step would be to determine a series of core projects that we can begin to implement."

         Those core projects would be geared to "incentivize private-sector development," Bolen said.

         The city envisions spending about $8 million over several years to facilitate about $32 million in private investment, so ideas submitted should be ones that can help the city get that kind of return on its spending.

         Roy said the city is seeking projects that have the potential to be funded and "aren't just pie in the sky."

         "This is not the city that's going to be telling people what to do. This is going to be the landowners and the people who have property. We're here to provide resources and at least let them know what kind of things we'd be interested in partnering on through infrastructure," Roy said.

         "But we don't know that unless they come forward and tell us what the needs are."

         The city ultimately will accept fully developed riverfront proposals, but the time from now until March 26 is a "critical stage" in which the city will see the scope of response.

         The city wants to get to the stage where it could receive specific requests for proposals by the end of the year.

         On the city's website, the R.I.V.E.R. Act section includes a detailed explanation of the city's plans and goals, as well as what it is looking for in terms of comments and proposal. It also has two attachments at the bottom of the section.

         Attachment A provides a space for questions about city's plans and contact information.

         Attachment B is a "notice of intent to respond" and has a place for a respondent to designate whether he or she would submit a detailed plan for downtown or riverfront development; would recommend modifications to the request for information and process; would suggest what components should go into future processes; or would make other recommendations.

         That section seeks "proposed points of agreement," the respondent's level of experience in development and contact information.

         Those responding to the attachments can send their information to Bolen's email address listed under each attachment.

         The city's website describes the R.I.V.E.R. Act as a "multi-site riverfront development project focusing on revitalization, housing, recreation and business stabilization." It also says it is "a cultural, community approach to the redevelopment of the Alexandria/Pineville riverfront."

         Roy said the city has invested a lot of money in recreation infrastructure on the riverfront. It is looking for potential projects that are recreation-friendly but also will involve or spur private development.

         Bolen said the development process isn't expected to lead to "one giant project," but instead to a "series of core projects so we can begin to implement piecemeal with our partners."

         "The potential is incredible for redevelopment of the river and connected downtown areas," Bolen said in an email.

         Roy said housing ultimately will be critical to successful development.

         "Housing can be both the creator of more developments that would be in the commercial sense, but it also follows good development," Roy said.

         The city would like to see some of the projects involve multi-use buildings that include housing, he said.

         Alexandria's riverfront is not "at grade" because of its levee along the Red River, he said, and that makes it more challenging to develop. The city envisions some multi-level commercial development that would perhaps have parking on a bottom floor and other development, such as a restaurant or housing, on upper floors so that people could see the Red River.

         – by AP/ Reporter Richard Sharkey with The Town Talk

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