CenterPoint bidding for ports

Published 12:09 am Thursday, March 12, 2009

Illinois-based CenterPoint Properties, which got permission two months ago to build a distribution center complex in Suffolk, now is bidding for control of Virginia’s ports.

The company is expected to file a proposal with the state by the end of the week, said Joel Rubin, president of Rubin Communications Group, who is handling the company’s local public relations regarding the project.

“Over the last month or so, they’ve been meeting with people involved with the port,” Rubin said. “They’ve been refining it up until this week.”

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In January, City Council approved a rezoning request from CenterPoint Properties for a massive distribution center on U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk. Rubin was not sure whether CenterPoint’s interest in the port stemmed from its Suffolk development, or CenterPoint intended to bid for the port from the start.

The Virginia Port Authority, a state agency, owns the state’s four marine cargo terminals in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Front Royal. The proposal would include all four facilities.

However, the lengthy review process for such a bid likely will mean a deal won’t be approved for months or years.

“It basically starts a process where other companies could present competing proposals,” Rubin said.

If the state decides to consider proposals to sell the ports, it will post CenterPoint’s bid for several months in order to receive competing proposals, Rubin said. The state likely would then narrow the list to two or three companies, then get more details and hold public hearings before a winning bidder is chosen.

“This obviously has many, many more steps before they could be chosen,” Rubin said.

“Obviously, they’re very interested. They demonstrated that by the investment in Suffolk. They believe in the viability of the port of Virginia.”

CenterPoint president Paul Fisher is scheduled to appear at the Mariner’s Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, at 4 p.m. today to discuss the proposal.