Approximately 30 calls ranging from established banquet-type facilities to “mom and pop” start-ups were fielded regarding the Request for Proposals issued in February. The deadline to issue a formal RFP to the was April 3, however ultimately there were no responses, leaving Director of Public Services James Eckrich at a loss as to how to proceed.
The Board of Alderman had an open brainstorming session at last week’s meeting, admitting that right now they are in the idea phase for uses of the Barn and adjacent parking lot rather than the solution phase. The site was shown to 5-7 people, and after initial interest died down, Eckrich discussed the issue with the city administrator and the mayor, deciding to bring the topic back to the board.
Alderman Paul Duchild said that he didn’t know if it was a matter of advertising better or suggesting shorter-term tenants for the summer, but he was open to keeping the RFP open.
The building, donated by a prominent family, had always been a restaurant in the past and currently sees use via showers and small parties.
“If the board wants us to look at demolition, it would certainly be cheaper to demolish it than keep it up, especially with it needing a new roof,” Eckrich said. “I feel this RFP was very open ended. There is no requirement to provide gross sales. There’s actually no requirement to provide rent other than covering the utility costs. We’ve asked the operators, ‘How can you be profitable? What can work for you?’”
Newly elected Alderman Tim Trueblood asked that since the property belongs to the city, would it be out of line to also issue an FRP for people to rent parking spaces for a Friday through Sunday for a Farmer’s Market.
“I know the one in Kirkwood is booming, and it’s on a trail. It ties very nicely in the concept of the Sappington House,” he said.
Mayor Jeff Schlink said that the initial intention of the deadline for the facility meant the barn only.
“I don’t think the ‘facility’ included the parking lot or other uses,” Schlink said. “Certainly if that parking lot was going to be used, it probably would have an impact on the business if they were interested in going in there. For me I don’t think you can do one without the other. If I were putting a business in there I wouldn’t want to give up 10 parking spaces for someone to sell something in front of my business. So I think the whole package needs to be considered.”
Alderman Mimi Duncan was uncomfortable with the idea of a tear down or with reopening an RFP without an expiration date. She also expressed that there should be some signage on the property so that the 1,700 to 2,800 people who enjoy Grant’s Trail daily can see.
“An expiration date just keep people motivated to make some sort a decision in a reasonable amount of time,” Schlink said. “I think we’d like to see somebody move in there. I think there was a lot of positive body language when it was recommended for the Park’s Board to take a look at this.”
The Park Board has been instructed to explore alternative uses and make a recommendation back to the Board of Aldermen. Meanwhile, the RFP is reissued with an expiration date of Aug. 1.