SENATOR Theatre RFP: BDC denies FOTS request to release theatre expert’s response

FOTS has been advocating for more than a year that a successful future for The Senator required heeding the advice of historic theatre redevelopment experts, like John Lind of Venuetech. When FOTS was invited to send a representative to the BDC Advisory Panel we were optimistic that the BDC had taken this to heart and the process would include hands-on guidance from such experts.

However, FOTS representative, Laura Perkins soon found that while the BDC eventually did reach out to the League of  Historic American Theatres (LHAT) for input, it was only to send a brief list of questions to two members, not ask for interactive, hands-on participation.

Yes, TWO LHAT experts… This does not include historic building rehab expert Marty Azola.

One is John Bell, CEO of Florida’s famed historic Tampa Theatre whose responses to questions posed by the BDC (via email) were answered and distributed to Advisory Panel members. It is our understanding that Mr. Bell was never allowed to review the proposals, but had very definite opinions about what works and does not work when it comes to historic theatres like The Senator. But, what were Bell’s opinions?

Tom Harris, FOTS president, requested the release of John Bell’s expert assessment of the only remaining RFP on the table. He noted that it would be understood if references to respondents’ financial data, if any were present, would first have to be removed. However, the BDC leadership still denied this request for reasons of “confidentiality”.

Appearances are then, at the BDC secrecy for a specific purpose is termed “confidentiality”.

The responses from the second as yet unnamed LHAT board member (which we only recently learned existed) apparently were NEVER given to the Advisory Panel members. Our understanding is that these included evaluations so scathing in their professional feasibility assessments that BDC leaders decided not to share them with the panel.

Balto. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

It is therefore FOTS opinion that witholding expert input from the panel and, moreover, from the public displays alarming violations of proper procedure, transparency and the public trust in a situation where over a million dollars of taxpayer funds have been invested thus far. More examples of how The Senator RFP process is in shambles and why it is imperative that Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s administration steps in immediately.

Stay tuned as the situation evolves.

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