Masterplan for Destination Resort

Red River Economic Development, LLC (RRED)

Frankfort, KY

Request for Proposals
Masterplan for Destination Resort
Red River Gorge, Kentucky


The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce convened a task force of business leaders in 2013 to address the rapid economic decline in Kentucky's eastern coalfields. Most of the selected task force members are originally from eastern Kentucky, although their business successes have generally been achieved by relocating outside the region. They have sentimental attachments and deep loyalty to the region.

The focus of the task force has been on spurring economic development and job creation, specifically through pursuing the untapped tourism potential of East Kentucky and identifying ways to create a destination tourist attraction that will serve as a catalyst for additional economic development in the region. The task force commissioned a study by AECOM in 2013 to identify possible tourism attractions for the region and has concentrated most of its attention on the Red River Gorge, an area that serves as a natural gateway to eastern Kentucky and which is close to several major metropolitan markets.

The Issuer of this Request for Proposals:

Red River Economic Development, LLC, (RRED), was created by the original Chamber task force as a public-private partnership to oversee this project and to be the applicant for the federal and state grants involved with the planning process. The non-profit group's board of directors includes five business leaders and the four chief elected officials representing the four counties that encompass the Red River Gorge area.

RRED seeks the services of an experienced planning and/or development firm or partnership of such firms to partner with RRED to develop a masterplan for a destination resort and related tourism attractions in the vicinity of Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky, one hour east of Lexington on the Mountain Parkway.

RRED has secured funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and from multi-county coal severance funds administered by the state of Kentucky, for the purposes of producing a masterplan for a destination resort that will serve as a catalyst for additional economic developments in the Red River Gorge region and throughout East Kentucky.

The goal of creating a masterplan is to attract a developer and or developers to successfully create a destination resort and related tourism attractions in the region.

Target Location

For the purposes of this project, Eastern Kentucky is generally defined as the Appalachian region of Kentucky that lies south of I-64 and east of I-75. The target area for this tourism development proposal is the four-county area surrounding the Red River Gorge (Powell, Wolfe, Lee and Menifee counties), specifically centered on the area near Slade, Kentucky, which encompasses Natural Bridge State Resort Park and enjoys immediate access from the Mountain Parkway.

The Masterplan will Address the Following Elements:

Phase I. Compile Existing Information (within 30 days, Month 1):

1) Summarize the previous studies related to tourism in the Red River Gorge region, including the 2013 AECOM report (a review of successful tourism developments in rural areas of the country), and the 2016 HVS report (a focused tourist market analysis for a destination resort in the Red River Gorge).

2) Compile any available site-specific studies of geological formations, public land ownership and /or management and utility infrastructure in the vicinity (e.g. within a 10-mile radius).

3) Inventory existing natural assets, facilities and attractions, site maps, aerial photography and videography, transportation features (current and planned) and utilities in the vicinity.

Deliverable: Written Report by end of Month 2. (10% of Project)

Phase II. Engage Stakeholder Groups and the General Public (Months 2 – 6):

4) Seek input from local residents, stakeholder groups (e.g. rock-climbing groups, state tourism officials, etc.) and elected officials through a minimum of 25 one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders, regular progress reports to the fiscal courts in the four counties, and at least four town hall meetings in the region during the course of the planning process.

5) Regularly post progress reports on the project's dedicated website. The website will be governed by RRED and managed for RRED by the Kentucky Chamber (charitable) Foundation. It will serve as a clearinghouse for progress reports on the project, posting public announcements, gathering ideas for the project and generally encouraging public dialogue about the project. The website will be maintained through the planning and development stages of the project and then repurposed and managed by an appropriate public body (e.g. tourism agency or joint marketing coalition) for on-going support of the development and its economic impact.

Deliverable: Preliminary Written Report on Stakeholder Input by End of Month 2 (10% of project)

Phase III. Prepare a Development Plan (Months 3, 4, and 5):

6) Prepare a preliminary site plan for the proposed resort including on-site infrastructure (e.g. roads, entryways, parking, etc.), adjacent on-site features (e.g. lake(s), wedding venue(s), conference center, scenic viewing areas, hiking trails, music venue, rental cabins, residential options, etc.) and complementary attractions in the vicinity (e.g. rental cabins, residential areas, recreational options, campgrounds, etc.).

7) Address the economic feasibility of upgrading or replacing the Natural Bridge State Resort Park lodge.

8) Provide recommendations for structuring a P3 (public-private partnership) project to encompass the renovation and possible coordinated management of the state park facilities alongside the proposed private resort.

9) Perform an economic analysis of the proposed resort, associated on-site features and proposed features for the existing state resort park.

10) Offer recommendations for complementary attractions in the vicinity that would entice visitors to extend their stays and would enhance the economic viability of the anchor resort. (The previous AECOM and HVS studies provide preliminary concepts for such attractions.)

11) Recommend possible upgrades to existing tourism assets in East Kentucky that could compliment the economic viability of the anchor resort and eastern Kentucky tourism in general.

12) Identify necessary and desired infrastructure improvements to support the proposed resort and complementary attractions, including costs estimates and potential funding sources.

13) Utilize computer-assisted modeling to create a 3-D presentation of the proposed resort for building public and investor support for the development(s).

14) Present examples of other comparable and/or relevant tourist developments that could inform the project advocates' decisions regarding development at the Red River Gorge.

15) Evaluate the best and highest use of economic development assets in the region (e.g. the Pine Ridge Industrial Park, owned by the Pine Ridge Industrial Authority and established by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the late 1990s.)

16) Provide an inventory of concepts offered during the various Engagement activities and offer preliminary analysis of those considered viable for complementary attractions in the region.

Deliverable: Preliminary Plan for RRED Review by End of Month 4; Final Plan for Public Review by End of Month 6 (40% of Project)

Phase III – A. Define Appropriate Linkages (Months 4 and 5):

17) Prepare plans for on-site and regional transportation linkages to maximize access to and between area attractions, including any possible rail linkages that could benefit tourism.

18) Prepare plans for developing on-site hiking, biking, ATV and riding trails that would link the proposed site to the region's trail network.

19) Provide an assessment of the advantages of, and a cost-benefit analysis of securing a direct off-ramp from the west-bound lanes of I-64 for traffic moving from Ashland/Huntington to Lexington and beyond.

20) Prepare a detailed site plan for the Slade interchange of the Mountain Parkway to serve as a prominent gateway to eastern Kentucky, both in function and appearance.

Deliverable: This Element Should be Reported with the Preliminary and Final Masterplan Reports. (10% of Project).

Phase III – B. Protect the Natural Environment of the Region (Months 4 and 5)

21) Identify environmentally-sound land-use planning techniques for encouraging appropriate and sustainable physical and economic development within the vicinity (e.g. within a 10-mile radius of the proposed resort site).

22) Identify appropriate methods for protecting the relatively pristine landscapes and viewsheds surrounding the primary highway approaches to the region, namely the I-64 corridor from I-75 to the Mountain Parkway, the I-64 corridor from Ashland/Huntington to the Mountain Parkway, and the Mountain Parkway from I-64 to the Slade interchange. These corridors which provide the primary access for visitors from major metropolitan areas should be treated and protected as a critical gateway to the Red River Gorge region and more broadly, as the first impression by which countless visitors will be introduced to eastern Kentucky.

23) Develop plans for accentuating the Natural Bridge geological formation as the signature feature of the Red River Gorge, making it more accessible to visitors in an environmentally-sustainable way that balances increased tourism with the need to protect the geological formations from over-visitation.

Deliverable: This Element Should be Reported with the Preliminary and Final Masterplan Reports. (10% of Project)

Phase IV. Help the Region Establish a Unique Brand Identity (Month 6)

24) Conduct a branding analysis and provide a plan for a unifying brand identity for the resort and the vicinity, highlighting key features that would attract favorable attention from potential visitors who are within one-day's driving distance of Red River Gorge. Utilize existing resources including previous research on the region that is available through the Kentucky Cabinet of Tourism, Arts and Heritage.

25) Work with state tourism officials and the Kentucky Tourism Council to develop a plan for establishing the Red River Gorge as "the gateway to Eastern Kentucky" for visitors coming from the west and north (including for example, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and other points west and north), including recommendations on physical features, entryways and marketing strategies.

26) Propose a multi-county marketing mechanism and funding alternatives for promoting the Red River Gorge region, the proposed resort and area attractions.

27) Provide examples of the marketing campaigns of similar destination resorts and attractions.

Deliverable: Separate Branding Analysis. (10% of Project)

Phase V. Present Final Report: (Month 6)

28) Present final report in multi-county town hall meeting, with follow-up reports to the four county Fiscal Courts.

Deliverable: Final Reports, Maps, Models and all Intellectual Property Produced During the Study to be Delivered to RRED by the 180th Day after the Contract for a Masterplan is Awarded. (10% of Project)

Application Timeline

Wednesday, July 31, 2019 — Any interested party (consultants, planning firms, development firms or partnerships of such entities) should submit a brief Statement of Interest to RRED at the address below, along with a brief description of the interested party.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 — RRED will host a webinar for interested parties at 2:00 EDT to describe the proposed project and to answer questions from the interested parties. Webinar instructions will accompany RRED's acknowledgment of Statements of Interest.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 Proposals — are due on or before 12:00 p.m. EDT. This includes both hard copies and electronic versions.

An original and three hard copies of the proposal must be submitted to:

Dave Adkisson
c/o The Kentucky Chamber Foundation
464 Chenault Road
Frankfort, KY 40601

In addition to the hard copy submission, proposals must also be emailed on or before the deadline to Email attachments should be no more than 10 MB.

Monday, September 30, 2019 — RRED selects three-to-five finalists for in-person interviews.

First Week of October, 2019 — RRED conducts interviews with finalists in Lexington, KY. (date TBA by August 7 webinar)

Thursday, October 31, 2019 — RRED awards contract for the Masterplan Project

Friday, November 1, 2019 — Project begins

Thursday, April 30, 2020 — Proposed Completion of Masterplan (subject to negotiation)

Application Content

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Questions and submissions:

Request Type
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Contact Information

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