Request for Proposals (RFP)
Master Lease for Short-term Rentals of Four Historic Homes
Gettysburg National Military Park is charged with the protection and preservation of 147 historic structures, many of which witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg. The National Park Service (NPS) Historic Leasing Program offers an innovative approach to preservation by leveraging private funds to preserve historic buildings for future generations. Gettysburg National Military Park is pleased to announce the availability of four historic structures on the battlefield for lease for the purpose of short-term vacation rentals (AirBNB/VRBO style). These properties are located within the heart of the battlefield, near iconic destinations such as Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, and the Wheatfield. They offer a unique opportunity to provide visitors with an immersive overnight experience while remaining accessible to the general public and creating revenue to support preservation efforts across the park. The structures include:
Bushman Farmhouse: Located within sight of Little Round Top, the division of Confederate Major General John Bell Hood occupied the property on July 2, 1863, with as many as 7,000 Confederate soldiers moving through the farm on their way to assault the Union position at Little Round Top, Devils Den, and the Wheatfield.
Slyder Farmhouse: Located just south of Devil’s Den, the property was occupied by elements of the Second United States Sharpshooters on July 2, 1863, who transformed it into a formidable defensive position. These Union soldiers held their position until that afternoon when a deadly battle ensued with Alabamians and Texans of Evander Law’s and Jerome Robertson’s Confederate brigades and Union troops were driven back.
Rose Farmhouse: Located along Emmitsburg Road, the Rose farm gained tragic notoriety as the “bloodiest farm” in American history when, over the course of three hours on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, as many as 20,000 men battled across the fields, woods, and ridges surrounding the house. As many as 6,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured, transforming the once peaceful property into a scene of “devastation, desolation, and death.”
Althoff Farmhouse: Located just east of Devil’s Den, this farmhouse was constructed just after the battle. On July 2, 1863, the log home present at the time was occupied by Confederate troops who harassed Union soldiers until six members of the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves volunteered to take the house and drive out the Confederates. In 1897, these six men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroism.
This lease opportunity is open to all interested persons and businesses on a competitive basis. The proposal judged best under the proposal selection criteria will be given an opportunity to negotiate a final lease agreeable to both the selected offeror and NPS.
Proposals must be submitted electronically no later than March 27, 2023, to Deanna Harrison (e-mail us) and should include “Gettysburg RFP” in the subject line.
Site tours may be scheduled by appointment only between January 30 and March 6, 2023 and must occur Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm. Offerors must submit questions no later than March 6, 2023. All responses will be provided in writing and made available to all offerors by posting on the above website. Please contact Deanna Harrison (e-mail us) to schedule site visits and submit questions. We anticipate that evaluation of proposals and negotiation will require 6-8 weeks and that the effective lease date will be on or about June 1, 2023.
RFP Release Date: January 23, 2023. Site Tour: By appointment only, Monday through Friday, January 30 to March 6, 2023, from 8 am to 4 pm. Question Submission Deadline: March 13, 2023. Proposal Submittal Deadline: March 27, 2023. Anticipated Date for Selection of Qualified Proposals: Six Weeks after Submittal Deadline. Anticipated Lease Effective Date: June 1, 2023 - Subject to Negotiation.
Are any properties enabled to have WIFI and would either WIFI -enabled keypad locks and/or security cameras be able to be installed?
A: The lessee would be permitted to install Wi-Fi enabled keypad locks. Exterior structures such as security cameras are generally prohibited and any consideration would require evaluation under Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act. The Bushman Farmhouse currently has Wi-Fi which is provided through a router. There is a Yale Keyless Entry Touchscreen Deadbolt on the back door. None of the other structures are Wi-Fi enabled but the lessee may investigate options for providing this service. Most employee housing units on the battlefield use a MiFi unit to provide this service via Verizon.
Do I need approval for what company I would use for landscaping or other contract work?
A: The NPS does not approve the selection of contractors by the lessee. However, contractors must abide by all Lease provisions as well as applicable federal, state, and local law regulation and policy. The lessee is responsible for requiring contractors to maintain appropriate insurance coverage that names the lessee and the United States of America as an additional insured and for providing a contractor informational document which provides all pertinent information about the site.
Do I have to open all 3 houses up as a short-term rental right away?
A: It is not required to make all the properties available to the public immediately. It is anticipated that availability may vary based on proposed improvements, the fact that some structures are already furnished or other factors. Offerors should describe in their proposal their plan for providing a high-quality visitor experience including, if appropriate, their plan for staged opening of the properties.
May proposals offer less than the minimum Fair Market Value Rent (70% of gross revenue)?
A: Federal leasing regulations do not allow the NPS to accept a rent offer for less than the established minimum Fair Market Value Rent (FMVR) or 70% of Gross Revenue for this opportunity. The FMVR was established by a market study created by a licensed real estate agent that surveyed local property managers, real estate agents, and vacation rental managers and cannot be altered without cause. While it is probably desirable to utilize a vacation rental listing service such as AirBNB or VRBO no offeror is required to do so. It is up to the offeror to weigh the benefits and costs of utilizing these established services vs creating their own listing, booking, and payment platforms. Actual rent payments to the NPS may be lower than the FMVR when potential rent payment offsets are taken into account.
How does the NPS plan to track income?
A: Income is self-reported and should correspond to the offeror's quarterly rent payments. Corroborating documentation, such as the Payout Summaries provided by AirBNB and VRBO should be included if those services are utilized. This is explained in Section 7 of the sample lease (Attachment A).
Is there a source the NPS uses for nightly rates and will NPS track what nightly rate the lessee uses?
A: The minimum nightly rates were determined by an analysis of similar properties in the Gettysburg market performed by a licensed real estate agent. Dynamic pricing models are acceptable as long as the rates they provide are above the minimum daily rates. The minimum daily rates are meant to act as a floor, and we do not believe they will restrict demand. However, if any of the minimum daily rates prove to be too high, or if changes in market conditions demand it, they can be reevaluated at that time. Proposed peak and off-season nightly rates, and other proposed fees should be described under in Criterion 5 of your proposal. If you are using a dynamic pricing strategy based on particular software please also describe this strategy in your proposal.
Are any of the structures on public water and or public sewer? Updated 3/8/23
A: The Slyder farmhouse and Althoff farmhouse have a holding tank for sewer that is pumped out on a regular basis by the Gettysburg Municipal Authority. All other structures (Rose and Bushman) are on public sewer. The Althoff farmhouse is the only location on public water and the remaining structures are on a well system.
Will tenants have access to the battlefield at night?
A: The Lessee must adhere to all applicable laws, including statutes, ordinances, regulations, and administrative or judicial orders or determinations, enacted, promulgated, or issued by federal, state, or local governmental entities or agencies having lawful jurisdiction over the Premises or the Lessee, that apply to and govern the Premises or the Lessee’s activities on the Premises. Therefore, the lessee and any sublessee must adhere to park rules and regulations including park hours. Park hours extend from sunrise (defined as ½ hour before sunrise) to sunset (defined as ½ hour after sunset). While we would expect individuals to be able to travel park roads after hours to access the structure they are renting they would not have access to the other areas of the battlefield outside the lease curtilage when the park is closed.
Can the properties be used for the purposes of conducting activities such as special events (parties, weddings, etc.) or ghost tours?
A: The only use authorized under this master lease is as short-term vacation rentals (AirBNB/VRBO style). Leasing for the purpose of commercial activities or special events outside of a vacation rental is not permitted. Access to the subject properties is also limited by the number of available parking spaces. As stated in the sample lease (Attachment A), in no event may the Premises be used for any purpose that is not permissible under Part 18 of Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations or, even if so permissible, may be dangerous to life, limb, property, or public health; that in any manner causes or results in a nuisance; that is of a nature that it involves substantial hazard, such as the manufacture or use of explosives, chemicals or products that may explode; that otherwise harms the health or welfare of Park Area resources or visitors; or that results in any discharge of hazardous materials in, on, or under the Premises.
Do all the appliances present in the structures remain in place and do they all work?
A: All appliances present in the Althoff, Bushman, and Slyder farmhouses are functional. These assets are the personal property of the United States government. The offeror will have the option of utilizing some or all of these assets in the homes or replacing them. If the Lessee decides to utilize this property, they will be responsible for their maintenance or replacement. The Lessee must purchase any additional assets (trade fixtures) necessary for the operation of leased properties; those assets will remain the property of the Lessee. Personal Property owned by the Lessor that is made available to the Lessee for the Lessee’s use under this lease will be described as part of the lease agreement.
May the offeror propose painting the exterior of leased structures and changing the paint color?
A: The offeror should describe any proposed improvements to structures, such as painting, under Criterion 2 of their proposal. Painting the exterior of a structure including a change in paint color will require evaluation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, must follow the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Properties and requires NPS approval.
Is the exterior paint on the Althoff farmhouse lead-based paint?
A: The exteriors of the Althoff farmhouse and shed have experienced accumulated paint layer failures on the historic substrate and therefore are not compliant with current lead paint mitigation standards.
Are property improvements eligible for a rent payment offset?
A: It is the intent of the NPS to allow rent payment offsets for improvements to the properties. However, we cannot provide a carte-blanche guarantee that any improvements will be approved as an offset until a specific improvement project has been proposed, either as an individual project or as part of a larger improvement plan. An improvement project can only be considered for a rent payment offset if the NPS receives a cost estimate and provides written approval prior to the start of any project. A project approved for a rent payment offset must still receive all other approvals required by the Park's compliance review process before any work can commence.
What if the Lessee fails to properly maintain the property?
A: Building maintenance and repair will be conducted in accordance with a Maintenance Plan developed by the Lessee and approved by the NPS as part of the lease agreement. Lessee responsibilities for maintenance and repair are described in Section 10 of the sample lease (Attachment A). The Lessor may terminate this lease for default if the Lessee fails to perform any of its responsibilities or obligations under the lease. See Section 17 of the sample lease for a description of defaults and Lessor’s remedies.
Is the purpose of the leasing program primarily preservation of historic structures on the battlefield?
A: Yes. The park preserves 147 historic structures on the battlefield. Leasing is expected to be effective at improving and maintaining the condition of leased structures better than other options such as maintenance in the park housing program or remaining vacant. Funds received through this program will also be used to help preserve historic structures across the battlefield. Additionally, providing an opportunity for the public to occupy these historic structures, even for a short time, provides a new and unique visitor experience that has not previously been available.
What can the park spend money received through the leasing program on?
A: The park is required to use proceeds received through the leasing program on the following: (1) facility refurbishment; (2) repair and replacement; (3) infrastructure projects associated with park resource protection; and (4) direct maintenance of the leased property.
Do other parks lease historic or non-historic structures?
A: Yes. Parks across the nation are pursuing lease options to manage both historic and non-historic structures. A recent estimate indicated that there are 175 leases covering 387 structures across the national park system. The most leases are within the Northeast Region with 74 leases covering 126 structures.
If the roof on one of the structures requires replacement who would be responsible for that task?
A: The lessee will be expected to perform routine inspection and maintenance on all buildings and grounds throughout the term of the lease including inspection, preventative maintenance, and minor repairs for major systems. The NPS is responsible for replacement and significant repairs to major systems such as the roof.
Do the window treatments (e.g. blinds) stay in the structures?
A: The NPS does not intend to remove any of the window treatments currently in structures proposed for lease. These assets are the personal property of the United States government. The offeror will have the option of utilizing some or all of these assets in the homes or replacing them. If the Lessee decides to utilize this property, they will be responsible for their maintenance or replacement.
What is an air compression fire sprinkler system present in some of the structures?
A: This is a type of dry sprinkler system that is used to protect historic structures in the park. As opposed to a wet sprinkler system where the pipes contain water, dry sprinkler systems are filled with pressurized air until the heat from a fire opens a sprinkler head. When that occurs, the loss of air pressure in the piping causes a special valve to trip, releasing water into the pipes and out the open sprinklers onto the fire. In areas where temperatures reach below freezing this type of system reduces the risk of frozen pipes or accidental leaks in our historic structures.
Is there any fee that must be paid to the NPS during times when leased structures are unoccupied?
A: The minimum Fair Market Value Rent has been determined to be 70% of Gross Revenue for this opportunity, though it is possible to offer a higher rent payment to increase the competitiveness of your proposal. In the case that a structure is not rented for a period of time it would not generate revenue and no rent would be owed. There are no additional fees for occupancy or vacancy beyond the rent that has been agreed upon during lease negotiations.
Is it possible to host an open house at one or more leased structure as part of a marketing strategy and including an interpretive component (e.g. living history)?
A: The offeror should include under Criterion 1 their marketing efforts including advertising and outreach. Please be aware that a marketing strategy such as an open house with an interpretive component is likely to involve land outside the lease curtilage due to limited parking and would require NPS approval. Such an effort could also be considered in partnership with NPS as part of an NPS special event such as Open Doors where visitors are afforded the opportunity to access structures not normally open to the public with park staff providing interpretation of the site.
How often are site wells tested and will this be the responsibility of the lessee?
A: All properties are on wells except the Althoff farmhouse which is on public water. The frequency of well testing varies based on the type of water treatment provided (UV light vs chlorinator). Sites that are on a chlorinator are tested daily and sites where water is tested with UV light are tested monthly. Testing of well water and inspection and testing of fire alarm/sprinkler systems is negotiable.
Do the floorplans in Attachment B reflect any future improvements to the sites proposed for leasing?
A: The floorplans for the Althoff, Bushman and Slyder farmhouses reflect existing conditions. The floorplan for the Rose Farmhouse reflects changes associated with the future site renovation. This is subject to change.
Are there any property taxes that would be the responsibility of the Lessee. Is the Lessee responsible for other state, county or local taxes?
A: These structures are owned by the Federal Government and any applicable property tax is the responsibility of the NPS. It is the responsibility of the Lessee to research and pay any state, county or local taxes that may be applicable to their business.
Can you provide any historical data on the utility expenses of each property that the Lessee is responsible for ie. Oil, Electric, water, etc.
A: Utility costs can vary based on a variety of factors including weather, utility rates, occupancy, etc. Some utility costs such as water/sewer and electric were the responsibility of individual employees when the homes were leased for park housing purposes and are not available. The data below provides a monthly estimated range across all structures. Each structure has a 200 gallon fuel oil storage tank. More detailed utility expenses, if available, can be provided upon award. Select utility costs and their applicability to rent payment offsets may be discussed during lease negotiations.
Utility Monthly Average (12 months)
Sewer Hauling: $123.90-$134.05
Heating Fuel $137.44-$303.07
Are the structures proposed for lease required to be compliant with PA Code?
A: These structures are owned by the Federal Government and therefore fall under the standards of the International Building Code.
Are the structures proposed for lease accessible?
A: The National Park Service will provide persons with disabilities the highest feasible level of physical access to historic properties that is reasonable, consistent with the preservation of each property’s significant historical features. Access modifications for persons with disabilities will be designed and installed to least affect the features of a property that contribute to its significance. Modifications to some features may be acceptable in providing access, once a review of options for the highest level of access has been completed. However, if it is determined that modification of particular features would impair a property’s integrity and character in terms of the Advisory Council’s regulations at 36 CFR 800.9, such modifications will not be made.
Historic farmhouses currently available to lease (Althoff, Bushman, Slyder) are not accessible. The NPS will be conducting an accessibility assessment for these structures and determining on a case-by-case basis what level of accessibility can be achieved while preserving the character-defining features of the homes. For homes that do not have a Historic Structures Report that identifies the character-defining features of the home, this document will be completed first. Any structural changes to promote accessibility will be the primary responsibility of the NPS. The NPS will work with the Lessee to implement sensitive accessibility solutions to the extent practicable.
Does the Lessee have to use the same fuel oil provider as NPS?
Do all of the houses have fire alarms and fire suppression systems? When were sprinklers put in?
A: All structures have the structural elements of a fire suppression/sprinkler system that were installed in 2002. The sprinkler systems at all properties have been disconnected for a variety of reasons. Sprinkler systems are not required in these structures. The only home where it is recommended the sprinkler system remain is the Althoff farmhouse which is connected to the private service main. NPS is currently considering the benefits of and feasibility of upgrading and reconnecting sprinkler systems.
The Althoff, Bushman and Slyder farmhouses are protected by a Firelite Model 9050UD fire alarm control panel that was installed in 2012. The fire alarm control panel is in the basement and a remote annunciation panel is in the kitchen. The fire alarm control panel monitors photoelectric smoke detectors that are throughout the homes including the attic and basement. Over the next year, the NPS will be making improvements to ensure all smoke detectors have sounder bases that provide 75 dba at pillow level.
How is trash pick up handled? Where on the property can trash cans be stored?
A: Trash removal will be the responsibility of the Lessee. Residential waste removal and recycling services are available in Gettysburg however some properties are located off the main roadway (e.g. Slyder farmhouse). Trash cans would need to be stored in an inconspicuous location or inside one of the outbuildings on the property within the lease curtilage when not out for pick up. It would be the responsibility of the Lessee to remove trash from the home and take trash cans to and from the road for pick up. Potential options for handling trash that has been removed from leased structures may be discussed during lease negotiations.
Who issues the permits for these properties to be used as rentals to the public?
A: The NPS has approved the use of these structures for the purposes of short-term vacation rentals. To the best of our knowledge, there are no specific laws and regulations governing Airbnb style rentals imposed through the Pennsylvania state government, i.e. apart from taxes. Instead, they are specific to the county and city where the short-term rental is located. It is the Lessee's responsibility to research, identify and obtain any permits that are required.
What type of routine maintenance/inspections are done on the properties?
A: Below is a listing of regular maintenance/inspection activities currently conducted by the NPS. Some or all of this work will be the responsibility of the Lessee depending on the outcome of lease negotiations. Additionally, a condition assessment is conducted on each structure annually and any additional work needed is identified at that time.
HVAC (spring and fall)
Water Testing and Treatment (monthly well test where applicable and chlorine check multiple times per week at Bushman)
Sewage Holding Tanks (pumped on a regular basis (as needed) by GMA at Slyder and Althoff
Fire/Life Safety Inspection annually
Fire Detection System Testing annually
Battery Maintenance on Free-standing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors which require batteries (every 6 months).
Portable Fire Extinguisher Maintenance annually
Portable Fire Extinguisher Inspection monthly
Can snow fencing be utilized if needed during snow events?
A: Temporary structures such as snow fence could be used with prior approval by NPS. Such structures may require compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act if using stakes and must be erected and removed in association with individual snow events.
Will the lessee be required to mow the properties once per week or once every other week?
A: The Lessee is required to maintain the premises in good condition, including regular grass mowing. Frequency of grass mowing may be influenced by time of year and environmental conditions. Therefore, NPS does not prescribe the frequency of mowing.
Will the NPS consider “split” leasing – leasing to two different people?
A: Consideration of the current leasing opportunity will only be given to proposals that include all four historic properties.
Doe the NPS have information it can share regarding the Bushman farmhouse when they operated it as a short-term vacation rental?
A: The Bushman farmhouse was beautifully restored and updated in 2017 and put into the leasing program by the park in 2018 via recreation.gov. 2019 is the only full year of data available regarding occupancy and revenue associated with the NPS lease of the property. Between January 2019 and December 2019, the property was leased at a daily rate of $325/night with the exception of special event dates when the rental rate was $375/night. The house can accommodate up to 6 guests and there was a 3-night minimum stay with a 1-2 day break in-between reservations necessary to accommodate cleaning. No advertisement outside of posting on recreation.gov was implemented. The Bushman property was available for lease on 302 days and utilization was 33.44%. A total of 126 visitors reserved the site with an average length of stay of 3.16 days. After payment of recreation.gov fees the net revenue to the park was $24,697. In 2020, the Bushman Farmhouse was closed due to coronavirus. Prior to closure the reserved utilization rate was above 50%.
How specific should proposed renovations to structures associated with this leasing opportunity be related to expected plans and costs within the initial proposal?
A: As stated in the RFP, these plans may be conceptual in nature. Highly detailed or full architectural plans/drawings are not required at this point in the process. Similarly, detailed cost estimates are not required. However, offerors should provide at least basic/conceptual plans and rough costs for proposed renovations or improvements that are sufficient for the NPS to determine whether the proposed action is realistic and appropriate.
Is the NPS able to provide additional information and figures on what insurance currently looks like for these four properties?
A: The United States government is self-insured and does not have separate insurance policies for park structures. However, current NPS leasing regulations require the Lessee to maintain property insurance on the buildings being leased.
Would a potential offeror establishing a new business entity to specifically manage the properties associated with the lease opportunity need to have that business established prior to submission of a proposal?
A: Potential offerors do not need to have completed the process of establishing a new business (e.g. LLC) prior to submission of a proposal. Offerors in this circumstance should describe that they are establishing a business, what type of business, and their business model. It should also be anticipated that a business that is not established will not have a financial record to submit. Under this scenario the offeror will need to submit personal financial information using the appropriate forms including credit information and financials for key individuals involved in the proposed business.
What does the NPS consider peak season, off-season, and shoulder season at the park?
A: The NPS generally considers peak season for this leasing opportunity to be the months of June, July, August, September and October. Off-season is considered January, February, March and December. The shoulder-season is considered to be April, May and November. Data on park visitation can be found at https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/visitation-numbers.htm
How does the NPS define “short-term” and would the lessee be able to offer a special nightly rate for individuals who desire to rent the properties for longer periods of time or desire to rent multiple structures at one time?
A: The only use authorized under this master lease is as short-term vacation rentals (AirBNB/VRBO style). The NPS does not specifically defined the term “short-term” and does not limit the number of structures that can be rented simultaneously to one individual. Offerors are required to charge a nightly rate above the minimum value provided in the RFP. Minimum nightly rates are intended to set a floor value regardless of length of stay or number of structures rented.
Is it possible to continue to advertise the availability of leased structures available for rent on recreation.gov?
A: Recreation.gov is an inter-agency website where the public can reserve facilities such as the structures being offered for lease as well as obtain information on “non-reservable” facilities such as a park visitor center. The selected offeror could use recreation.gov to advertise and accept reservations for structures included in the lease. However, this would functionally preclude their ability to accept reservations through other entities as recreation.gov does not “talk to” other websites. If a reservation is made through recreation.gov it would not subsequently show as not available elsewhere and double bookings would result. It may be possible that these structures could appear as a “non-reservable facility” on recreation.gov with a link to an outside website but this possibility would need to be discussed with recreation.gov administrators. The NPS is willing to investigate this option with the selected offeror. Alternatively, it is possible to have a link to the lessee website from the “Plan Your Visit” section of Gettysburg National Military Park website – an example of how this may work can be found at https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/lodging.htm
Is there flexibility related to the maximum number of occupants designated for each structure?
A: The maximum number of occupants designated for each structure is based on a combination of factors such as availability of parking and the number of bedrooms. Without readvertising or extending the RFP we cannot change the maximum number of occupants at this time. The Rose farmhouse will not be included in the lease until renovations are complete and maximum occupancy may be reconsidered based on final renovation.
Does the Lessee have the flexibility to reduce the availability of select structures during off-season periods or for the purposes of making improvements or conducting maintenance activities?
A: It is not required that the lessee have all the properties available to the public at all times. It is anticipated that availability may vary based on proposed improvements or to address maintenance needs. Offerors should describe in their proposal their plan for providing a high-quality visitor experience including, if appropriate, their plan for reducing property availability during the off-season or in response to the need for improvements/maintenance.
To what extent would the Lessee be held accountable for renters accessing closed battlefield areas, or other illegal activity within the battlefield grounds?
A: The lessee and any sublessee must adhere to park rules and regulations. It is expected that the lessee will reasonably screen potential renters according to industry standards and make available materials to renters that provide information regarding those rules and regulations. Assuming the lessee is not supporting activities that are contrary to park rules and regulations (e.g. advertising use for the purpose of ghost hunting) the park will hold the individuals involved in those activities responsible for their actions.
If there was an incident at one of the properties that required a response for emergency personnel, would the immediate first responders be with the NPS, Cumberland township police, or other party?
A: The park has concurrent jurisdiction on all lands held in title by the United States. Functionally this means that when the lessee or sublessee calls 911 in the case of an emergency either the NPS or local police or both will respond. Who gets there first will depend on time of day in large part because NPS law enforcement is not on duty in the park 24-7. The park has an excellent relationship with local law enforcement and other emergency response agencies.
If there is a problem that results in the Lessee incurring legal fees is the NPS responsible for those?
A: The United States cannot sign an indemnification agreement or pay legal costs for lessees.