DIA creates new system to decide who gets to build townhomes in LaVilla

Agency rejects three bids for projects in historic neighborhood, extends deadline for offers.

Johnson Commons wants to build 98 townhomes in historic LaVilla neighborhood.
Johnson Commons wants to build 98 townhomes in historic LaVilla neighborhood.
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Developers interested in building on eight city-owned parcels in LaVilla have 30 more days to submit proposals. 

The Downtown Investment Authority board voted Wednesday to reject three bids for the property on West Adams, Johnson, Lee and West Forsyth streets as it implements a new process for vetting unsolicited bids. 

Board members agreed that a formula and scoring criteria for unsolicited bids on city-owned property under the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency’s authority need to be established before moving forward.

Vestcor Companies started the process in May by submitting a bid for a 70 for-sale townhome project for the site. Vestcor requested that the DIA donate the land for development.

The DIA then published a 30-day notice required by city code, seeking additional proposals from other interested developers. 

Vestcor Companies is seeking to build 70 townhomes in LaVilla.
Vestcor Companies is seeking to build 70 townhomes in LaVilla.

Johnson Commons LLC — a joint-venture between JWB Real Estate and Corner Lot Development LLC — and Blackwater Capital LLC each replied with their own plans before the June 14 deadline. 

The board debated the vetting process and scoring criteria for more than an hour Wednesday. Specifically for the LaVilla parcels in question, the board determined a point system to score the proposals with five criteria:

• 30 points: Consistency with the Downtown Northbank and LaVilla Redevelopment Strategy.

• 20 points: Previous development experience with bidded projects.

• 20 points: The company’s financial resources.

• 15 points: The city’s estimated return on investment.

• 15 points: Deference to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.

All three companies have been invited to resubmit their proposals within 30 days, which a committee commissioned by the DIA will review and score.

Over the past two years, Vestcor has been building workforce and low-income housing in LaVilla.

These new proposals are trying to fill what city officials call “the missing middle” — affordable market-rate housing in Downtown.

The Johnson Commons’ proposal released June 14 is mixed-use, incorporating 9,500 square feet of retail. Led by JWB President Alex Sifakis and Corner Lot CEO Andy Allen, their plan would pay $100,000 for the eight parcels.

The project is also higher density with 98, 1,430-square-foot townhomes.

Price points for the townhomes in both projects are similar — $250,000 with Vestcor and $250,250 with Johnson Commons.

Vestcor pledged $100,000 to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in its plans, which is adjacent to the eight parcels. The developer also would pay $100 in administrative fees for the land transfer.

Sifakis and Allen also pledged to donate $150,000 in design services and infrastructure improvements to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park. Their project’s design takes historical cues from LaVilla’s shotgun-style houses of the 1860s to early 1900s.

Details for the third proposal submitted by Blackwater Capital have not been released.