Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin, in concert with the Economic Development staff, has wasted no time responding to a September city council mandate for staff to prepare a course of action relative to the city-owned property at 53rd and Eastern. On December 7, 2001, a memo was released to the city council outlining a planning request for proposal (RFP) to initiate a process by which a land use could be determined for the approximately 220 acres the city purchased between 1996 and 1998 for a failed mixed-use development.

The RFP is the first step in reaching out to the planning community (nationwide) to help facilitate a process that would result in a plan that reflects community consensus first, implementation second?a concept otherwise foreign to the city until now. The original 53rd Street and Eastern Avenue Mixed-Use Development project had as its goal implementation first, public approval dead last, a mistake that cost the city the project altogether thanks to efforts by Citizens United for a Responsible Vision (CURV), which did extensive due diligence on the development projections only to find them overstated and highly improbable.

It appears the city has admirably learned a valuable lesson because the RFP is a dramatic departure from the top-down philosophy that has traditionally prevailed in Davenport; this process is based on public inclusion. Planners are being asked to include in their proposals methodology for gathering substantial public input, analyzing it, and disseminating it to such a degree that the final land use recommendations will reflect the community's wishes, not just those of developers. The opening paragraph of the RFP states, "The desired products of the planning services project include a revised land use plan for the larger area and more detailed land use, development and financing plans for the City-owned property." Furthermore, "The consultant shall provide the text of the proposal (particularly the proposed work program) in pdf format so that the City may make it accessible on our website."

One of the primary criticisms of the Mixed-Use project was the lack of process, especially as it related to public input and community consensus. The RFP specifically addresses this component of the process in precise "deliverables" to be provided by the planner(s).

"Map(s) of recommended land use and major public facilities for the planning area; a narrative explaining the features of the plan and process of developing the plan; and a report on the citizen participation process, providing documentation of the engagement of citizens in developing the plan and evidence of their support."

Within the Planning Process Considerations portion of the RFP, public input is further defined: "The consultant must demonstrate a thoughtful, pragmatic approach to citizen engagement. Throughout the planning process, it will be of critical importance that the citizens of the community be provided access and the opportunity to have significant participation. The development of a shared vision and extensive, hands-on citizen participation, such as through charettes and surveys, are strongly encouraged.

One approach of interest to the City would be to conduct a broad-based public information/input campaign, such as a visual preference survey, to ascertain potential consensus at the earliest stages of the planning process. This lead initiative would be followed by participative, intensive planning sessions focused on how the initial consensus may be carried forward by the City-owned properties and surrounding planning area."

In addition, the RFP calls for the formation of an inclusive oversight committee comprised of the following interests: "The membership will include representatives of land owners, developers, the Plan & Zoning Commission, the Park & Recreation Advisory Committee, citizens groups (including Citizens United for a Responsible Vision, the group which criticized the previous plan), and our elected officials..."

A focused effort is being made through this RFP to consider all the facets that surround a successful land use plan for the city-owned property, including alternative land use plans. The outline of priorities in the RFP include : A) Ensure extensive and effective citizen participation in the planning process; B) Minimize the City's financial exposure; C) Provide for the equitable sharing of costs between public and private-sector participants in the development of the planning area; D) Consider the value to the community as a whole from the development of the planning area; E) Establish the feasibility of the plan features and financing within the local market; F) Provide for a timely execution of the plan; G) Consider alternative models for planned development; H) Relationship with planned update of the City's comprehensive plan.

The memo for the RFP went to the city council, including the council elect, for their preview. It will be formally presented in its entirety to the Community Development Committee on Thursday, December 13. Staff's hope is that it will be sent on to the Committee of the Whole and the regular Council Meeting the following week (December 17 and 19, respectively) for approval. If this occurs, the RFPs will be issued to numerous land-use planners for bid. The deadline for submitted proposals and selection of the planner would ideally occur within eight weeks of issuance. This means that the process could begin as early as March 2002.

Malin emphasized the positive difference in how the city has approached the process not only for this land use plan for city-owned property, but for other city projects as well. "There has been a definite change in governance. The emerging theme is one of community inclusion, evidenced by our outreach to the public on the Skywalk Bridge, our timely response to citizens' 101 Questions relative to the River Renaissance project, and making our green sheets available on the web for public consumption, to name several initiatives. We are going from divisiveness to diversity, celebrating our community's diversity as a strength."

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