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Less Is Less

Columbia Development competitor claims that the state turned down millions in its decision on who would redevelop the Harriman campus

by Chet Hardin on February 4, 2010

Howard Carr, president of Colonie-based Howard Group, learned last November that his company lost in the last round of bids to redevelop the W. Averell Harriman State Office Campus. And Carr read last week in the Albany Times Union that Columbia Development was the chosen company. According to John Egan, commissioner of the Office of General Services, and Peter Wohl, head of Harriman Research and Technology Development Corp., Columbia’s proposal was more in line with the “current vision of the campus.”

The two companies were competing in the RFP (request for proposal) process.

“We filed a FOIL request when we got knocked out,” Carr said. Last week, in response to the request, he received a copy of the Columbia proposal from the Empire State Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project.

Carr is claiming, after reviewing the Columbia proposal, that his firm offered more money than his competitor to purchase the land from the state. The Howard Group offered $200,000 an acre throughout the entire site. Columbia offered $200,000 an acre as well, except for 10 acres where that company planned to construct residential buildings. For those 10 acres, Columbia offered $100,000 a piece. So Columbia’s offer is $1 million less, he said, than Howard Group’s.

Carr also said that his proposal offered a profit-sharing deal with the state. In the first phase, the state’s share was estimated at $640,000 in revenue a year; phase two would have brought in an additional $650,000 per year; and in phase three, an additional $2.8 million, for a total yearly revenue estimated at more than $4 million.

“Based on the documents that were turned over to us,” Carr said, “we don’t see an equity kicker”—that is, a profit-sharing plan—in Columbia’s proposal.

Carr said that the nine-person board that voted on the proposals was unanimous in its decision, which he finds difficult to believe. However, in his FOIL request, the state didn’t provide the specific information on how the two proposals were graded in the decision. (Grading was done on a point system.)

And Carr questioned why he hasn’t been given the grading results: “The law says whenever it is anything that is statistical, the state can’t withhold it.”

chardin@metroland.net

To see both proposals, visit the metroland.net blog.