An open call to firms interested in designing a new Belfast downtown and waterfront master plan has returned eight proposals, ranging in price from $38,500 to $240,000, according to City Planner Wayne Marshall.

The City Council opened the request for proposals June 15, and bids were closed July 13. Marshall said 39 firms expressed interest in the master plan, 15 of those attended an information meeting in June and eight submitted proposals.

Applicants were asked to address improvements to downtown streets and parking, commercial development and use of city-owned property in the downtown commercial district and waterfront areas. Proposals were also to include consideration of marine and harbor improvements, and greeting and wayfinding signage.

The original RFP included in the master plan the completion of the proposed Coastal Walkway — a pedestrian and bike path that would run from Steamboat Landing to the footbridge. But at Marshall’s recommendation, the Council removed the walkway so as not to entangle the proposals in cost estimate rules from the Maine Department of Transportation, which is contributing more than half of the $450,000 price of the walkway.

As a condition of funding, MDOT prohibits cost overruns exceeding 10 percent. Marshall pointed to the six-to-one spread between the lowest and highest master plan bids — the largest spread on any competitive bid he had ever seen, he said — as evidence that it would be hard to place an estimate within the 10-percent margin, and therefore best to keep the projects separate.

The proposals received by the city did not include specific plans, but rather attempted to demonstrate that the applicants understand the scope of the project and are qualified to perform the work. Proposals were mostly from firms located in Maine, with several submissions from Massachusetts firms. All included at least one subcontractor and some as many as five.

Marshall said the next step is for the proposals to be reviewed by a panel of city officials and members of several city committees that may be affected by the plan, including Parks and Recreation and the Harbor Committee.

Addressing the City Council July 20, Marshall cautioned that the proposals would need to be evaluated on several levels: the expertise of the firm, the firm’s approach and the anticipated cost.

Marshall said the Council might want to negotiate with one of the firms to add strong aspects of other applications before finalizing a deal.

“There is a host of phenomenal experience among these firms,” he said.