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The Oklahoma City Council is hiring a consultant to help determine the new convention center's location


Kelley Chambers October 7th, 2010

The city of Oklahoma City plans to have that person in place by the end of the year.

The City of Oklahoma City is hiring a site selection consultant for the proposed MAPS 3 convention center and plans to have that person in place by the end of the year.

In September, the Oklahoma City Council authorized city staff to issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) to identify candidates and decide on one to look at the project with fresh eyes and determine the best site for the proposed MAPS 3 convention center. With MAPS 3 projects set to be built over the next decade, city officials want a consultant in place to evaluate potential convention center sites and crunch the numbers so that when a consensus is reached the city can move forward with land acquisition, site planning and design of the center.
The RFQ responses for the site selection consultant are due by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Eric Wenger, MAPS 3 program manager, said the consultant will be selected using a process for hiring architects, engineers and planners that the city has had in place since 1986. Wenger anticipates a large number of applications from around the country. A selection committee will be appointed to review all the candidates and present a short list of the top applicants for consideration. Those involved will include city staff, the nine-member convention center subcommittee members and MAPS 3 advisory board members.

"We'll be looking at criteria such as previous work experience and their understanding of the project," Wenger said.

Moving forward, the city does not have a set amount designated to pay the consultant. Wenger declined to speculate on what that person or firm could expect to be paid, or the length of their contract. He added that the city does not have to do a competitive bidding process for the consultant.

"Our process for consultants is to hire the absolute best firm and then negotiate a contract," he said. "Their selection is not based on price."

When the work of the Core to Shore steering committee members was completed in 2007, their plan and renderings included a new convention center sitting just south of the Ford Center that would snuggle up to a large green space dubbed Central Park. As city officials began to make a pitch for MAPS 3, the convention center was included, and the Core to Shore site looked as good as any.

Renderings of the convention center have been kicked around, as have ideas of where it should be located. Two discussed more frequently are the site south of the Ford Center and another just east across the railroad tracks from that site at the old Producers Cooperative Oil Mill south of Lower Bricktown. Other studied sites have included the existing Cox Convention Center location and a parking lot north of E. Main Street. Wenger said he wants to see the consultant look at every viable option for the center.

Although Mayor Mick Cornett claims the final location is not determined, he said $30 million of MAPS 3 funds dedicated for the $280 million convention center will go toward moving an OG&E substation now located next to the proposed Central Park.

After the evaluation process, the consultant will then take sites that meet the criteria and rank those in order of their success in meeting the site selection criteria and conduct a workshop with project stakeholders to consider the ranking of the selected sites. Final approval must come from the City Council.

But for city officials, the first order of business is finding a site consultant.

"We're at step one of many steps to come as we prepare to construct the convention center as part of the MAPS 3 program," Wenger said.

Kirk Humphreys, a member of the convention center subcommittee, said while it is early in the consultant selection process, he is confident that an informed decision will be made. Subcommittee members include representatives the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and those from the corporate world and downtown property owners.

"There's a broad diversity of views, and that's well-represented on the committee," Humphreys said. "Kelley Chambers
 
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