ATLANTIC CITY - The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority selected Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc., the domestic branch of an international real estate firm, to develop the master plan for the Atlantic City Tourism District during a special meeting Friday.
In doing so, the authority passed over two companies that CRDA reviewers said were better qualified and initially offered to do the job for less.
Jones Lang LaSalle, a $2.9 billion, 40,300-employee firm headquartered in Chicago, will receive $799,770, with the CRDA reserving an additional $40,230 for contingencies. The CRDA is required by state law to have a master plan of the Tourist District developed by Feb. 1.
The CRDA initially requested proposals for master planning services in May, the resolution states, receiving eight applications by the June 24 deadline.
Three CRDA staff reviewers then combed through the proposals, accompanying paperwork shows, rating them in seven areas including the firms' relative familiarity with state and local land-use law, previous work, and "experience in preparing master plans for world-wide urban locales similar to Atlantic City."
The scores were tallied, and the CRDA conducted interviews.
The top-scoring firm was Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut and Kuhn Architects of New York City, or EE&K, which received 562 out of 600 possible points.
AECOM of Los Angeles was second with 555 points, while Jones Lang LaSalle placed third with 550.
Jones Lang LaSalle offered to do the work for $830,777, while EE&K offered $798,093 and AECOM offered $746,585. The resolution said Jones Lang LaSalle lowered its price in response to the CRDA's final and best offer request.
Two firms that scored worse than Jones Lang LaSalle offered to do the work for more money. RTKL Associates, which received 537 points, offered $966,175, while Spectrum/Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. received 488 points and offered $961,160.
CRDA board members questioned the disparity before approving the contract.
"It seems like for the money I am missing something," said board member Edward H. Gant, who later voted for the contract.
Bunny Rixey, the CRDA's assistant director for real estate, said in her presentation that the interviews clarified the choice. She acknowledged the top firms were competitive, saying, "No doubt that any of these four firms could do the job."
Jones Lang LaSalle won in part, interim Executive Director Susan Ney Thompson said, because it was able to better explain "How the plan would reflect our situation in the marketplace and improve our position."
Board Chairman James Kehoe added that Jones Lang LaSalle had more experienced staff.
This is Jones Lang LaSalle's second time doing work for the CRDA.
The CRDA hired the firm in October 2007, paying $350,000 for it to study development alternatives at Bader Field. The CRDA later relinquished Jones Lang LaSalle to Atlantic City, which hired it for $240,250 in July 2008 to help sell the 143-acre bayside Bader tract.
But the sale was ill-timed, coming at the start of a protracted slide in city gaming revenue and an international recession. The firm found no bidders by either the initial January 2009 or extended June 2009 deadlines.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford cast the only no vote Friday. He pointed out that the city had hired Jones Lang LaSalle and said, "A year and a half later, the city got essentially nothing."
Paul Mas, managing director for Jones Lang LaSalle New York, blamed market conditions for the lack of sale. He said the firm later helped direct the promoters of last summer's Dave Matthews Band Caravan to Bader Field.
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