The contractor that ultimately won Richmond’s Stone Brewing construction project was named on work permit applications filed the same day the Stone plan was announced, city documents show, a revelation that raises new questions about the process used to award the $18 million contract to build the brewery facility.
On Oct. 9, two land-disturbance applications were filed with the city of Richmond that name Hourigan Construction as the contractor for initial site preparation work. The applications were filed by the Timmons Group, a local engineering firm that joined Hourigan’s bid for the Stone project. Timmons also has a standing contract to perform engineering work for the city.
The permit applications were filed nearly two weeks before the Richmond Economic Development Authority voted to award the project to Hourigan, the same local company that the EDA selected to build the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.
Though the applications naming Hourigan cover a small fraction of the work involved in the Stone project, they came as Hourigan was competing with other firms for the larger job. The documents were filed about a week before the EDA publicly interviewed Hourigan and two other firms hoping to land the project.
During the development of the Redskins facility, Mark Hourigan, the president of Hourigan, worked closely with EDA board member Rich Johnson, who oversaw that project and has also taken the lead on the Stone project.
On Tuesday, Hourigan deferred questions about the permits to Johnson, who did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
City officials have touted the brewery as an economic boon to the East End and riverfront. They have said the brewery will bring $74 million in investment and create more than 288 jobs.
Two early permit applications filed by the contractors who won Richmond’s Stone Brewing project were an attempt by the contractors to lower public costs, according to the mayor's office.
Steve Edenbo packed up his Revolutionary-era garb and flew to California a day early.
The first phase of the project, which involves the construction of a 200,000-square-foot brewing facility, would be financed with $23 million in city bond funding that would be transferred to the EDA.
The later phase involving a riverfront restaurant and beer garden would require a similar allocation of $8 million from the city to the EDA. Stone would lease the facility from the EDA and would pay back the city investment over a 25-year lease, according to officials.
The Oct. 9 permit applications, submitted by Kevin Pennock of Timmons, are for work to clear and prepare two parcels at the Stone site in Greater Fulton. Pennock could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
One property, 116 Nicholson St., is owned by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The other, 108 Nicholson, is owned by Titan Virginia Ready-Mix, a concrete producer that owns an adjacent property.
Both applications are listed as “pending” in the city’s online records for permits and inspections.
The online system says the applications were filed Oct. 9, the day when city and state officials announced that the California-based brewery had chosen Richmond for its coveted eastern expansion. The application date field on the documents is blank, but the permits are coded as “14100901” and “14100902,” which indicates they were the first two applications filed Oct. 9.
The EDA is a quasi-governmental appointed body that isn’t subject to the same procurement rules that govern other publicly funded projects. The EDA exists in large part to free economic development projects from bureaucratic red tape, but the speed of the Stone project has raised questions about just how much competition is involved in the awarding of EDA projects funded with public dollars.
Hourigan drew praise for its work on the Redskins facility, which was completed on time despite a very tight schedule based on the team’s needs. There has been a similarly urgent tone for the Stone project because the company has said it’s running out of capacity at its Escondido, Calif., location and needs to have the Richmond facility producing by late next year.
Though Hourigan would oversee the design and construction of Stone’s brewing facility, much of the work would be subcontracted to other companies.
EDA officials have refused to say whether Hourigan’s bid came in lower than the other two finalists, Kjellstrom + Lee and Taylor & Parrish, and much of the EDA deliberations on Stone occurred behind closed doors.
EDA officials also refused a Freedom of Information Act request from the Richmond Times-Dispatch seeking the bids, saying that as long as there was a chance that negotiations with Hourigan could collapse before a contract was signed, revealing the bids could harm the EDA’s negotiating position.
The EDA heard presentations Oct. 15 from the three finalists for the Stone contract, which has not been signed pending City Council approval and resolution of land ownership issues.
At the Oct. 15 meeting, Julious P. Smith Jr., the chairman of the EDA board and chairman emeritus of Williams Mullen, recused himself from a closed-door discussion of the finalists. He said his law firm’s office in Virginia Beach works with Hourigan.
After another closed session Oct. 22, the EDA board voted to authorize Smith or his designee to negotiate and sign a contract with Hourigan.
In an earlier interview, Johnson said he made a phone call shortly after that meeting, which ended a little after 5:30 p.m., to inform Hourigan of the selection. He said he called the runners-up promptly the next morning.
On the night of the vote, The Times-Dispatch contacted Mark Hourigan via email seeking comment on his firm being selected. In an emailed response at 7:37 p.m., Hourigan said he had not heard the news.
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