Appraisal for Gary airport privatization delayed

2013-08-21T15:07:00Z 2013-08-22T12:26:04Z Appraisal for Gary airport privatization delayedBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

A key piece of financial information for the Gary/Chicago International Airport privatization is missing in action and may not be delivered to prospective investors before the Aug. 26 bid deadline.

Scheduled to be delivered to investors at an Aug. 9 pre-bid meeting, an appraisal of 600 acres of airport property and 100 city-owned acres now has an indefinite delivery date, according to airport spokesman Jame Ward.

The delay is alarming at least one investor group bidding to run the airport and manage its property, with the GCIA Group warning tight bid deadlines and the lack of an appraisal endanger the entire project.

"Proposing a direction and structure for a $100 million, 20 to 40 year deal at a struggling airport is a daunting task in itself, let alone asking that it be done in 30 days without the appraisals," stated GCIA Group partner Patrick Lee. "We still believe that the longer respondents have to brainstorm, bring in other partners and scour the country for users, the higher the quality of the responses will be."

The GCIA Group and seven other investment groups responded to an earlier request for information and qualifications from the airport in June.

The GCIA Group still intends to put in a bid, according to Lee.

"We are moving ahead," Lee said. "We intend to meet the deadline with a plan."

The GCIA Group is made up of Lee Companies, of Gary, where Lee is president; Axis Consulting, of Chicago; The Williams Capital Group, of New York; Airport Property Ventures, of Manhattan Beach, Calif.; and NAI Hiffman, Chicago.

The Times submitted a Public Access Records request for the appraisal at the time of the Aug. 9 pre-bid meeting and received Ward's response to that request this week.

The airport authority wants to hire a management firm to run the airport for five years to 10 years. It also want give a real estate manger a 20-year to 40-year exclusive contract to develop the airport and its surroundings. It wants that developer to put forward a plan for attracting $100 million in investment to the airport.

The airport authority  in June authorized hiring American Appraisers Inc. at a cost of $100,000 to appraise the airport and its assets in order to give bidders a baseline for proposals. A draft of that appraisal was scheduled to be delivered to potential investors at an Aug. 9 pre-bid meeting at the airport.

A schedule of capital assets included with the most recent audit from the State Board of Accounts pegged the value of the airport's land, infrastructure, buildings, improvements and vehicles at $80.7 million.

The appraisal currently underway was the subject of extensive discussions at the July 19 meeting of a joint city/airport public private partnership committee. Some members were under the impression up to 1,700 acres of airport and city-owned land were available and would be appraised.

But research by the city and airport had whittled that down to only about 700 acres directly controlled by the airport or city.

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