The owners of the historic ship, the SS United States Conservancy, has announced the formation of a group of prominent individuals to provide expert counsel for the preservation and redevelopment project. The Blue Riband Panel, named after the maritime distinction held by the United States as the world’s transatlantic speed record holder, will be part of the conservancy's redevelopment project team.

The focus is now on identifying and contracting with a developer committed to helping the conservancy realize its vision of transforming the historic vessel into a stationary, mixed-use destination. In April, a request for qualifications was released to over 200 real estate development, architecture, hospitality, and other organizations, advising them of the process to identify a development partner. The deadline for RFQ submissions was recently extended to June 1, 2012.

The RFQ will be followed by a request for proposals in June to a select group of respondents.

The members of the new Blue Riband Panel will assess development proposals and offer expert opinions on their strengths and weaknesses to the conservancy.

Founding Members of the Blue Riband Panel include: Laurie Beckelman, Principal of Beckelman + Capalino and former Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Stephanie Cuba, Principal at CC Strategies, LLC and former Senior Development Director of AvalonBay Communities; Kevin Billings, Director, Federal Energy Efficiency programs for Lockheed Martin and former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force; Jonathan Fanton, FDR Visiting Fellow at Roosevelt House and former President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’ and Stephen Lash, the Chairman Emeritus of Christie's Americas and founder, Ocean Liner Museum

"It will be an honor to work with these prominent leaders, each of whom has demonstrated a strong commitment to preserving and successfully redeveloping the SS United States," said Dan McSweeney, managing director of the Redevelopment Project. "Their diverse experience and expertise is a great resource for our efforts during this 60th anniversary year of the ship's maiden voyage."

“Each of these individuals brings a wealth of knowledge to our mission to save and repurpose this symbol of American pride and patriotism,” stated Susan Gibbs, the conservancy’s executive director.  “This panel will help to ensure that our future development partners contribute the same vision, energy and innovation that characterized the ship's initial design."

A national nonprofit organization founded in 2004, the SS United States Conservancy leads the global effort to save and repurpose the SS United States. The Conservancy raises public awareness and financial resources for the maintenance, restoration and ultimate reuse of this iconic vessel and works to ensure that the fastest ocean liner ever to cross the Atlantic remains an inspiration for generations to come.