City of Knoxville Releases Score Card for Supreme Court Site

After months of closed-door meetings and calls for clarity from restless members of the Knoxville City Council, the city released the details of its negotiations and score sheets between companies interested in the much-anticipated former Tennessee Supreme Court building.

The city announced it was working with Dover Development Corp. late last year. According to documents provided by the city, Dover bested the three other companies that submitted proposals, including Commercial and Investment Properties, getting a score of 102 points out of a possible 110.

Commercial and Investment Properties scored 92 points, Nashville-based BNA Associates scored 75 points and Marble Alley scored 67, according to the documents. The scoring was broken down in four categories: consistency with mixed use vision (45 points), financial capacity and business plan (30 points), qualifications and experiences (25 points), and goals for sustainability and use of Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) issues addressed (10 points).

Knoxville's Rick Dover, general manager of the company, is also renovating downtown parcels such as the Farragut Hotel and the Pryor Brown Garage and rehabbing the former South High School and Old Knoxville High School into senior living facilities.

Dover's plans call for a mixed-use building with a 170-room luxury hotel and 230 apartment units, a PetSafe store and a restaurant.

If the council approves the project, it is Dover’s. If the council rejects the Dover project, the most likely next step would be the city reopening the RFP process. If approved, Dover would pay $2.6 million for the property.

"We are excited about having reached agreement with Dover Development on the mixed-use project for the State Supreme Court site," Bill Lyons, chief policy officer and deputy to Mayor Madeline Rogero, said in an emailed statement. "It will activate Henley, save the historic Courtroom, be built according to sustainable practices, and provide retail and residential uses as well as a new hotel option for the market."

The city’s original 61-page request for proposals outlined a goal for the building to have a setting for an “exciting urban lifestyle” where people will want to live, shop and play. According to the document, preference would be given to a mixed-use space with commercial, retail and housing options fit for downtown residents who prefer walkability.

After two losing attempts to bring in developers for the project, the city finally purchased the property from the state for $2.47 million in late 2015. The building has housed empty offices since the state moved the court to its current site on Main Street in 2003. The 1.7-acre lot is an entire city block along Henley Street, considered prime downtown Knoxville property.

In February, Lyons said the process of selling a city asset is standard and doesn’t normally get much attention. The five-member committee submitted proposals and all other information was only available once negotiations were complete with Dover and council was presented with the negotiated proposal.

"Negotiations on projects such as which involve private development of public assets are by nature quite challenging," Lyons said Wednesday. "In this case, the process was complicated by the need to balance the City’s responsibility to insure that the project is constructed in an acceptable manner according to a reasonable timeline with the developers’ need for appropriate certainty, time and flexibility in completing a very complex undertaking."

The city will hold a council workshop for the property, which will allow council members to ask Dover questions and make suggestions about the property. Eventually they will vote on the proposal. Dover spokesman Mike Cohen said the group is looking forward to the workshop with council.

"They’ll have lots of questions and it needs to be a transparent process and we’re looking forward to hearing from them and working through the process," he said.

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