MANCHESTER, N.H – A request for proposals on renovation of the former Genest’s Bakery site will go back to the Committee on Lands and Buildings following a 8-4-1 vote by the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night.
Two bidders submitted proposals to acquire and redevelop the site at 630 Harvard St., the title of which had been taken by the city in May following nearly $804,000 in unpaid property taxes.
The Committee on Lands and Buildings recommended a bid submitted by Tom De Blois of the Tokena Corporation by a 4-0-1 vote, but questions arose surrounding contingencies about the other bid, submitted by Custom Architectural Design Management LLC, or CADM.
Both Tokena and CADM listed an extensive catalog of other refurbished properties across the city, but the two bidders differed on their approach to this particular RFP.
CADM representative John Cronin told the Aldermen that what had been seen as contingencies on his bid for the property were actually just what he thought to be voluntary requests, citing that if he had known these requests would be seen in a non-negotiable light, he wouldn’t have mentioned them in the bid.
CADM’s request asked the city to provide additional police patrols to protect construction equipment during the renovation process, assistance from the city cleaning up debris and graffiti, and a tax assessment freeze for five years under the New Hampshire Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive.
While the CADM offer of $275,000 for the blighted property was $50,000 more than the Tokena bid, estimates on the financial impact to the city’s finances by the tax collector’s office estimated that the CADM bid would actually cost the city $300,000 more than the Tokena bid due to the contingencies.
Board of Assessors chairman Robert Gagne also indicated that the property would not be eligible for those specific tax relief incentives, further complicating the matter.
Additionally, CADM also requested other non-monetary considerations, such as a due diligence period that would allow their bidding team to opt out of purchasing the property 30 days after finalizing the sale of the property and the lack of a developed site plan.
However, CADM’s bid proposal also projected approximately $10,000 a year more in property tax payments upon completion of all renovations and a vision more in line with the RFP’s request to see the property used in a light industrial setting, such as an art studio or a maker space.
De Blois told the Aldermen he followed RFP guidelines and the guidelines of the bidding process were clear for any applicants, a viewpoint shared by Alderman Tony Sapienza.
Sapienza indicated that if the RFP process went back to committee after the bid figures had been made public, it could damage the city’s reputation on future RFPs, suggesting that bidders might be able to submit low bids with the expectation they may expect a “re-bid” if things don’t go their way.
“These guys are not amateurs, they came in with their responses to the RFP. Now, we didn’t ask for your opening bid and we’ll give you a chance to improve it,” said Sapienza. “We asked for your best offer. We’ve got two offers. We looked at them in their entirety and took the best one for us. To give people a second chance after they know the other guy’s bid, that’s ludicrous to me.”
Manchester city solicitor Emily Rice told the Aldermen that a purchase and sale agreement had been delivered from Tokena earlier in the day, but no signatures had been made and no legally binding agreement came as part of the committee’s recommendation.
Among the four Aldermen in the committee voting for the Tokena plan, Elizabeth Moreau and John Cataldo opposed sending the RFP discussion back to committee for clarification while William Shea and Kevin Cavanaugh voted in favor of the additional discussion.
Shea told the other Aldermen that he had received hundreds of complaints regarding the property over the past several years, and added that the committee may reconfirm their earlier recommendation. However, he also wanted additional clarity regarding CADM’s bid to ensure the property’s rehabilitation would best serve the surrounding neighborhood.
Joseph Kelly Levasseur abstained from the motion, repeating his abstention during the original committee vote.
Among the other Aldermen, Sapienza and Keith Hirschmann opposed the measure, with the remaining Aldermen voting in favor except for Barbara Shaw, who was not present during the meeting.