City Hall launches downtown design competition

Submissions for Sand Creek waterfront, City Beach concepts will be accepted starting Feb. 21

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Sandpoint’s downtown design competition is officially on, after City Council members voted unanimously Feb. 15 to invite eligible teams to submit their proposals.

The new timeline has the competition registration opening on Tuesday, Feb. 21, culminating with a report to the City Council and completion of the competition on July 19.

The contest asks teams of designers to create proposals to address the Sand Creek waterfront and City Beach redevelopment projects, as well as inform the Comprehensive Plan update and future zoning and code changes.

A winning team will be identified in a three-stage selection process, which includes multiple  submissions, presentations and reviews. Stage 1 submittals will be due Tuesday, March 21. A jury of experts and a panel of technical advisers will make recommendations to the council.

Council members had voted unanimously Jan. 18 to hold off on approving the design competition, asking city staff to work on requested changes to the solicitation manual and come back with a revised draft at a later date. 

Tabling the competition drew the most vocal support from Councilors Justin Dick and Jason Welker, with both insisting that more public involvement needed to be incorporated into the process.

“In such a large undertaking, I want to have the community with us at every step we take in this process,” Dick said at the Jan. 18 meeting.

On Feb. 15, he said that the changes — though perhaps seemingly insignificant to some — “blows away a lot of the uncertainty we had prior to this.”

Working with competition manager Don Stastny — a Portland-based architect and master planner contracted by the city — staff returned before the council Feb. 15 after having been asked to identify more community input opportunities in the process, as well as changing the makeup of the teams by stipulating that they “may include” certain qualifications, rather than requiring them. 

Staff was also asked to lift the requirement that teams must have completed five similar projects in the past — a hurdle that Welker had argued would all but disqualify any local teams from entering — and identify specific “deliverables” to come out of the contest.

The revised competition solicitation includes refined waterfront designs and estimated construction costs, and indicates that a Downtown Waterfront Vision Plan must include at least a summary of goals and vision, urban design context, placemaking and wayfinding, and land use and policy recommendations; as well as an implementation plan, including phasing and priorities. 

Opportunities for public input now include a “meet your designers” public event, an in-person and virtual public exhibit, and a presentation of design concepts to the jury — all in Stage 2 of the competition.

Those opportunities will invite the public to observe and submit written comments that will be shared with the design teams, technical advisers and the jury.

Meanwhile, the qualifications section now asks for teams to provide documentation of “up to five projects” completed within the past 10 years — either collectively or as individuals. 

“The design team should have the professional qualifications and capacity necessary for the superb performance of the required services,” the solicitation manual now states. “It must have a track record of past performance on contracts with public institutions and private industry, including quality of work and compliance with performance schedules. The team should have knowledge of the issues and unique requirements specific to the project.”

“I think the teams will be tighter and more specific, and whatever resources they pull into it will basically enhance what the team is,” Stastny said. 

Staff stated that the initial development toward a full master plan would result from the process “and completion of the full plan master plan would likely be a next step with the competition winner,” followed by full construction design of the waterfront as adopted by the council.

According to staff, “We have heard from several firms — local and regional — anticipating the opening of this competition and we do expect we will see a qualified pool of respondents.”

The jury members will be Han-Mei Chiang, project manager of Portland, Ore.-based Hoffman Construction; Katie Egland Cox, executive director of Kaniksu Land Trust; Herb Fricke, CEO and president of AKANA professional services in Portland; Steve Gill, brownfields analyst with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality; Brian McCormack, principal landscape architect with Lapwai-based McCormack Landscape Architecture; Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad; Robb Talbott of Mattox Farms Productions in Sandpoint; and Karen Whitman, executive director of Portland-based Halprin Landscape Conservancy.

Technical advisers are Sandpoint Building Official Christine Kuhlman, Utilities Director Greg Lanning, Parks Planning and Development Director Maeve Nevins-Lavtar, City Planner Amy Tweeten, Art and Historic Preservation Officer Heather Upton, Infrastructure and Development Services Director Amanda Wilson and City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton.

Councilor Andy Groat said the revised contest solicitation document gave him “peace of mind” that the competition will deliver “what we need, want and demand.”

“There’s a greater level of confidence going forward,” he said, adding, “let’s work toward some solutions.”

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