HOODWINKED? Maritime Park Development Partners (MPDP) was fired recently as the project manager for the Community Maritime Park. As our investigation revealed, there are definite issues about the bid process, contract formation and contract performance of MPDP. CMPA attorney Ed Fleming is investigating those issues for the Community Maritime Park Associates board of trustees and should report his findings at the first board meeting next year.
How did we get in such a predicament with the developer of the most important public/private project in our history? There is plenty of blame to go around.
Land Capital Group, Scott Davison and their team focused hard on the minority community to win the bid for the maritime park. They made commitments beyond the important Covenant with the Community to seed the Contractors’ Academy with $250,000, sustain it with annual contributions up to $500,000 from its profits and to have subcontractors in all parts of the project that matched the demographics of Pensacola. Those bold promises kept the minority community in their corner on every important vote until recently when MPDP had problems delivering on those promises.
The naysayers played a role with their bizarre obsession with Quint Studer and the stadium. Had they used the same efforts to challenge MPDP, Davison and their actions, they might have succeeded in a petition drive against the votes to approve MPDP as the developer or Magi Construction as the general contractor. However, their fixations on Studer and the stadium hurt their ability to look at those critical votes. It turns out the real issue wasn’t Studer, the stadium or the bonds, but the developer.
It was the fear of another petition that hamstrung those who saw possible problems with MPDP as Davison’s numerous loan defaults surfaced and the members of his development team continued to change, as well as the Contractors’ Academy never getting off the ground. Many worried that dropping MPDP would open the maritime park project to more petition drives by Marty Donovan, Charles Fairchild and the rest of their group. The hope was MPDP would deliver on the promises that it made during the bid process, but it became more obvious in recent weeks that the company wasn’t equipped to be the project manager and that Magi Construction was the true project manager.
The media played a role in this, too. I interviewed all five finalists from the Request for Qualifications process, but I didn’t check into every member listed on the development teams. When the decision on the master developer was narrowed down to two candidates, I again interviewed both Land Capital/MPDP and Trinity Advisors, but I failed to dig deeper into the changes in the make-up of each group.
When MPDP was chosen, my attention turned to other issues. I wrote about my concerns on how MPDP lobbied the CMPA board and the Pensacola City Council on issues such as the placement of the maritime museum. There were red flags about the performance bond, but adding Hoar Construction seemed to put the project on much better footing. When Davison’s loan issues arose, I didn’t become concerned until last August when MPDP was specifically listed in a default judgment. However, I could have done a better job in investigating MPDP, Davison and his team much earlier than I did.
The good news is Magi Construction, thanks to Hoar Construction, has the maritime park on schedule and within budget. What happens next with MPDP will be decided next month.