P3 project could connect Versailles’ bourbon and horse history

By Ed Green, Building Kentucky

The City of Versailles is moving forward with an innovative project to revitalize its downtown, hoping to leverage its strong ties to Kentucky horse county and the storied bourbon industry to support tourism and community development.

To help create a vision for downtown development and encourage investments by private-sector partners, the city has issued a request for proposals.

Objectives of proposal

The proposal seeks responses from private partners to meet the following objectives:

  1. Generate sustainable economic development and capital investment in downtown Versailles
  2. Inspire community unity
  3. Create a regional tourism destination
  4. Connect downtown Versailles with Big Spring Park
  5. Maintain the character and small-town charm of Versailles
  6. Promote innovative solutions
  7. Provide facilities with quality design and construction
  8. Develop and maintain a streamlined project schedule
  9. Provide the City with a single point of accountability and collaboration for the Project’s performance
  10. Achieve an optimal balance of risk allocation between the City and Private Partner.

Responses to the RFP initially were due June 25, but officials extended the deadline to July 23 to allow additional time for interested partners to refine proposals and potentially partner with other firms interested in being part of the proposed development.

Revitalization in Versailles

Ken Kerkhoff, a Versailles businessman and former Councilman, said leaders in the city have been working on a revitalization strategy for several years. In 2014, the city completed a strategic plan that helped leaders consider possibilities. The city also developed a preliminary project design for redevelopment of the Versailles Police Station and areas around it, although leaders are offering it only as a “general concept of the City’s goals,” according to the RFP.

Other concepts included in the proposal are building an outdoor performance venue and event space, building a water feature that illustrates the area’s bourbon history, connecting the downtown with nearby Big Spring Park and local neighborhoods, and generally improving downtown infrastructure.

Kerkoff said the project is a great opportunity for the community to draw significant attention to its history and amenities and claim its connection to two of Kentucky’s signature industries: horses and bourbon. Versailles, just west of Lexington, is near five major distilleries and numerous horse farms.

Feedback from the community

Community leaders asked, “what can we do to maximize the bourbon heritage we have and the horse farm draw that we have and package it in a way that people can come downtown and enjoy it,” he said.

Versailles Councilman Aaron Smither said the RFP has generated strong interest, including more than a dozen potential partners who participated in a June 4 pre-proposal meeting and site visit. He added that the project is supported by local tourism and business leaders, the city council, Woodford County Fiscal Court and Mayor Brian Traugaut.

Smither added that the proposal was designed to bring creative solutions – both in terms of the concepts partners are proposing and the potential structure of the partnership. Respondents can submit design-build proposals, financing proposals, operations proposals, and maintenance proposals.

“That’s the vision that we had,” Smither said. “We wanted to covey flexibility in the space and flexibility in … responses.”

For more on the RFP, visit https://versailles.ky.gov/Pages/Announcements.aspx.

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