Critically important pieces of the Hynds/Hole (H2) project “puzzle” are now in place with the City of Cheyenne’s recent passage of two resolutions: one approving the framework plan for selecting the best developer and managing the process; and one committing $750,000 to the project by the City. Now with both these crucial pieces in place, the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is entering final negotiations on transferrable options with the owners of the subject properties (LEADS, as owner of the “Hole” and Cheyenne Development Partners as owner of the Hynds). While this process is taking place, DDA will concurrently move to finalize the Request for Qualifications/Request for Proposals (RFQ/RFP). Once these steps are complete, the RFQ/RFP will be distributed to a large database of commercial developers from across Wyoming and the country.
The Hynds/Hole project will be the first time in its 34-year history that the DDA has played an active role in a downtown development project. The H2 project is also one of the most important redevelopment projects in the district as it sits at downtown’s “100% corner” – the one that most people visualize when they think of downtown. The five-story Hynds building anchors the corner of Lincolnway and Capitol; with the “Hole” located directly to the west. The four upper floors of the Hynds Building have been vacant for over 30 years; with the ground floor currently in use. The “Hole” is the former location of Mary’s Bake Shoppe that burned fourteen years ago. Although there have been several attempts at redeveloping each individual property, none have worked. For the first time with the H2 project, both properties will be packaged into a single development opportunity, which is key. DDA will not be purchasing the properties outright but will take transferrable options on each property that the selected developer will be able to exercise through purchase.
The selection of the best developer for H2 will be through an intensive, two-phase process. Phase one will entail developers submitting their qualifications for review by a Technical Committee that will include: the H2 Project Committee, DDA Executive Committee, Councilors Roybal, White and Laybourn, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, City Planning Director and Engineer, MPO representative, a commercial banker, commercial realtor, and real estate economist. The top qualifiers from Phase I will be invited to submit a full proposal. Prior to the submission of proposals, developers will be required to tour the project site and attend a pre-submittal meeting. Proposals received will be reviewed by the Technical Review Committee plus a Community Review Committee, including: Mayor Orr, representatives from the Chamber, Visit Cheyenne, LEADS, historic preservation, commercial contractor, downtown property owner and other downtown stakeholders, as appropriate. Once the best proposal and developer are selected, a Development Agreement will be signed, a completion bond required and the options to purchased may then be exercised.
The City of Cheyenne will play an integral role in the H2 process by reviewing the RFQ/RFP and having City representatives participate on both the Technical and Community Review Committees. In addition, the City Council must approve the Development Agreement. Once all conditions are met and approvals received, the City will provide $750,000 in incentives for the project. According to Wyoming State Statute 15-9-201, the commitment of this type of monetary support must: serve a public use, will promote the health, safety, prosperity, security and general welfare of the inhabitants thereof and of the people of this state, will halt or prevent deterioration of property values within central business districts, and will assist municipalities in the development and redevelopment of such districts and in the overall planning to restore or provide for the continuance of the health thereof.
It is expected the redevelopment of the H2 project will cost between $13-15 million. The incentive from the City, along a matching façade grant from DDA (that was previously awarded, but never used) and tools such as historic tax credits, will help make the numbers work from a development point of view. The Call for Qualifications/Proposals will not stipulate the type of use for the upper floors of the Hynds Building but does require the ground floor be of a tradition downtown use that will help generate pedestrian activity. Developers will be proposing upper floor programming that will contribute to downtown’s vitality while working from a financial point of view. It is expected that the “Hole” will be developed into multi-level parking facility but will also need to have a pedestrian friendly street-face to encourage pedestrian movement.
The first big hurdles have been cleared with the City’s passage of the resolutions for the H2 Development Plan and incentive monies. Now, the real work begins with the process to qualify potential developers, select the best project proposal (and developer), enter into an agreement and go through the process of the developer purchasing the properties and redeveloping the Hynds and Hole. It will be a drawn out process, but one that will hold the key to a more robust and economically viable downtown – – where the “100% corner” is “100% activated”.
Vicki Dugger, Executive Director of Cheyenne DDA