Request for Proposals

City Comprehensive Plan Update

City of Bristol, VA

Bristol, VA

Posted: 07/22/2014
Submittal Deadline: 08/15/2014


I. Introduction

The City of Bristol, Virginia (City) is accepting proposals from qualified consulting firms with considerable experience in community design, land use planning, economic analysis and citizen involvement/participation to prepare a new Comprehensive Plan (Plan) for the city with a proposed second phase of work to include revision of the city land use ordinances.

The City Council believes that this is the appropriate time to create a new Plan to provide direction in the areas of land use, transportation, infrastructure, housing, community services, and economic development for the community. The goals and objectives set forth in the Plan, and developed through engagement and input from citizens, will be implemented by amendments to the appropriate development ordinances, capital improvement program, and other related programs and ordinances.

The City is seeking an innovative plan with an out-of-the-box approach to the comprehensive planning process. It is the City’s desire that there be significant and meaningful community participation in preparation of the plan and that the consulting team includes substantial opportunities for citizen participation throughout the planning process using a variety of methods.

It is the hope of city officials that this planning effort be a catalyst to jump-start a new future for the City and to generate excitement about the city’s development. The city staff has looked at models of planning successes in Virginia localities such as Lynchburg and Roanoke; as well as larger city examples like Chicago, Cincinnati, and Miami where the planning efforts have led directly to bold new investment and development in downtowns and neighborhoods, as well as preservation of open spaces and historic features. Bristol’s goal is that the Comprehensive Plan Update provides an effective means to achieve renewed community vitality, well-being, and pride; and serves the citizens and its representatives for many years to come.

The City is seeking proposals following Virginia Code Section 2.2-4301 3b. for competitive negotiation. Consultants are permitted to submit proposals that provide full in-house services or submit proposals using a team approach wherein a lead Consultant will use select services provided by other firms. A Consultant’s proposal must reflect the ability to provide a full range of expertise in all areas including but not limited to land use planning and zoning; demographic and economic analysis; transportation planning; utility planning; community visioning; urban design; community development; and GIS. Additionally, proposals must identify experience with public outreach, facilitation of public meetings, public relations and media campaigns, and presentation graphics.

The Scope of Work in Section V details the tasks to be performed and deliverables to be produced by the consultant are in Section V. This RFP also contains the following: community description, planning background and purpose, community engagement, project structure and process, proposal content, anticipated timeline, submittal requirements, and evaluation criteria.

II. Community Description

The City of Bristol, Virginia is located along Interstate 81 in Southwest Virginia adjacent to Bristol, TN. The City had a 2012 population of 17,662 persons and lies within the Bristol VA/TN/Kingsport Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) which contains approximately 309,000 persons. Bristol has a rich history that is being translated into a vibrant downtown supported by a unique community. Bristol is a city that is split between Virginia and Tennessee. Both municipalities operate separately with some overlapping responsibilities and departmental coordination.

Bristol is recognized as the birthplace of country music and will open a Smithsonian Institute affiliate museum in 2014 celebrating the city’s musical heritage. The museum is forecast to attract more than 70,000 visitors annually and foster continued redevelopment of the already bustling downtown. State Street, which also serves as the state line between Virginia and Tennessee, hosts a multitude of businesses including national chains and hometown entrepreneur successes. Loft apartment and condos further enrich the growing downtown community. Bristol has promoted tourism and retail development through the establishment of a Main Street district, a Tourism Zone, and an Arts and Entertainment district.

Located adjacent to Interstate 81, Bristol, VA has three interchanges providing access to businesses, neighborhoods, industrial areas, and downtown. The City is currently working on development of a new destination retail center featuring 1.4 million square feet of commercial space at Exit 5 of I-81, in close proximity to Exit 7 which already is developed with retail, lodging, and restaurants, and to Exit 74 in Bristol, Tennessee (about 10 miles away) where another major shopping center is under construction.

Despite the successful commercial development and new housing development over the last ten years, Bristol has significant community development needs. Approximately 62% of the total housing stock in Bristol is 50 years or older, and many houses are in need of rehabilitation. Over one quarter of all homes in the city are multi-family units. The City has been working on housing rehabilitation as well as blight reduction, through its Community Development Block Grant program, and the City has several older neighborhoods that are designated historic districts.

The median household income in Bristol is $30,636 with 22.5% of the population falling below the poverty level. The employment base is approximately 23.8% accommodation and food services; 17.2% retail/wholesale trade; 15.4% government; and 15.3% manufacturing. The unemployment rate for 2013 was 7.8%, although that has dropped to under 7 percent in 2014. A recent economic setback was the closing of Virginia Intermont College in May 2014, resulting in a vacant educational facility in an older neighborhood.

In addition to I-81, Bristol is served by the main line of the Norfolk-Southern Railroad – the railway being the main reason for the founding of the city in 1856 – and the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in nearby Blountville, Tennessee. The city operates numerous parks, including the 400 acre Sugar Hollow Park on the northeastern edge of the city, and the Randolph Park complex with football stadium and Minor League Baseball Park.

III. Planning Background and Purpose of Update

As required by Virginia Code, every locality in the state must have a Comprehensive Plan and must review the plan at least every five years and amend it as necessary. The City of Bristol’s first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1980, and a second, updated plan was done in 1995. The latest updated plan was completed in 2002. In 2013, an Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) was done to assess the 2002 Plan in terms of its how well it was serving the community. The EAR found that although the document had served its purpose after its adoption, it was now in need of a substantial revision in order to be useful to the city and its citizens and elected officials.

Recognizing the need to proceed with the update, the City Council and Planning Commission have budgeted for and approved the solicitation of a consultant to assist in the drafting of a new comprehensive plan, including a future land use map, to help guide the City’s growth and development. Following the process of updating the plan, the City will need to revise its zoning and subdivision ordinances to be better tools to implement the plan and is interested in possible use of a form-based code for the city as opposed to traditional zoning. With this procurement, the City will be looking for a consultant that is qualified to assist with phases of work beyond the Comprehensive Plan update.

PLEASE OBTAIN COPY OF FULL RFP by contacting Sally Morgan at or go to the city website at