CINCINNATI — Cincinnati’s Park Board has chosen a landscape supply company, H. Hafner & Sons Inc., to build and operate a boat dock and restaurant near Cincinnati’s Public Landing, ending a seven-year saga that included three bidding competitions and one failed attempt to award a no-bid contract for the project.
"We're very excited to be presented this opportunity," said Hafner & Sons President Justin Cooper. "I’ve always had an affinity for boating, with my travels between here and Florida. To have the opportunity to run a marina and to be able to do it in Cincinnati is an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
The Park Board’s staff recommended the Hafner bid over a rival proposal by Queen City Riverboats. The board endorsed that recommendation, enabling the city to negotiate a contract with Hafner that is subject to approval by Cincinnati City Council.
Cooper said his proposal was designed with boaters in mind, with shower, restroom and laundry facilities available for boaters who use the dock for extended stays. Those who stay for a day or less will pay no mooring fees.
“Boaters especially are eager to visit the city," Cooper said. "That’s an amenity that they haven’t had access to for many, many years."
Hafner & Sons was the winning bidder in a competition launched by the city’s procurement office in May. The Park Board delayed a vote in September so it could hear more details from both bidders. Last week, the Park Board voted not to consider a revised bid from Queen City Riverboats that proposed a floating hotel sponsored by the Cincinnati Reds.
The team's involvement caused Commissioner Susan Castellini, wife of the Reds' owner, to leave the room in the last two meetings in which bids were discussed and votes were cast.
The remaining board members unanimously endorsed the Hafner proposal.
“The Hafner group has done everything that we asked them to do,” said Park Board Chairman Jim Goetz. “The Queen City group has a lot on their table … with Hafner, I feel like we would get focused operations on this, even though it’s not their core business.”
Parks Commissioner Molly North said Hafner’s Nov. 11 presentation convinced her the company was qualified.
“My biggest concern with Hafner coming in was inexperience running a marina,” North said. “I felt very confident after the presentation they had the wherewithal to operate it.”
A report by the Park Board’s waterfront, planning and finance staff said the Hafner proposal would cost the city up to $2.2 million and return up to $143,000 in shared revenue from mooring fees and restaurant sales. The Queen City Riverboats proposal would cost $1.7 million and return $32,000 to the city annually, according to Park Board staff.
The vote was preceded by a last-minute addendum in which Queen City Riverboats questioned Hafner’s qualifications and complained about the city’s bidding process.
“QCR has the experience to make informed and conservative representations of potential revenue streams,” said the 18-page addendum. “The low-cost bidder seldom has this ability. It is usually just telling people what they want to hear. If judged based upon facts rather than empty promises, QCR wins again.”
Cooper said he has extensive project management experience with H. Hafner & Sons and co-managed the Manhattan Harbour marina and restaurant from 2017 to 2019. Harbour Master Todd Crawford confirmed Cooper worked at the Dayton, Ky. marina on a contract basis, managing all aspects of the business.