News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 15, 2013

Thompson Thrift submits only bid for Fifth Street parking lot

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Thompson Thrift, a Terre Haute contractor, has submitted the only bid to buy a city-owned parking lot on the northeast corner of Fifth Street and Wabash Avenue.

At Monday’s meeting of the five-person Board of Public Works and Safety, the three board members present voted to “take under advisement” the Thompson Thrift bid. When asked by the public at the meeting, Bob Murray, board president, stated the bid price was $118,000, the minimum possible bid.

By law, the city was not permitted to accept less than $118,000, which was the average of two appraisals of the property.

A “notice of intent” to accept bids for the 33-space parking lot, which Murray signed on Dec. 17, also requires bidders to show plans for how they plan to use the property and adjoining properties; the latter are not owned by the city and were not part of the sale.

Adjoining lots to the east are owned by Mike and Kaleel Ellis, Terre Haute attorneys.

In its bid documents, Thompson Thrift states it plans to build a 150- to 200-bed student housing building stretching from Fifth to Sixth streets on the north side of Wabash Avenue. The bid documents state that those “five adjoining lots” are “under contract” with Thompson Thrift, implying an agreement allowing the construction to move forward.

Paul Thrift of Thompson Thrift, who signed the $118,000 bid, said Monday night the project is not yet set in stone, but that ISU and Thompson Thrift continue to make progress.

The plans, which are part of the bid documents, show the building will be four stories tall and include space for retail businesses on the ground floor, a requirement in much of the downtown.

“It is our intention to seek high-end retailers for the first floor,” the document states. The project “will provide exciting state-of-the-art retail space that currently does not exist.”

At first, city officials denied the Tribune-Star’s request for a copy of the full bid documents, stating that Board of Works policy held that a copy would not be made available to the public until the bid was acted on by the board at its next meeting, Jan. 28. Further inquiry by City Attorney Chou-il Lee found the documents could be made public; however, only a portion of the bid documents was provided Monday afternoon because of time required to make photo copies.

City officials, led by Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Department of Redevelopment, have been ushering this project along for months. The Board of Works voted in August to allow the sale of the parking lot. The City Council gave its approval for the land to be sold in November.

The ISU board of trustees hired Thompson Thrift last year to provide pre-development and planning services, including site selection services, for its plans to provide student housing downtown.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes