I am in a midsized city in the Midwest and while I know several developers here, they are all very conservative in terms of the types of projects they take on. Our downtown has seen continued redevelopment over the past 10 years, however its all mixed use (retail & lofts mostly.) While this is a solid model, I have a project that takes some outside vision and expertise, combined with a conservative approach. While we have rehabbed some SFH, built several small businesses and have a good reputation in our community, I've never taken on a project at the scale I'm looking at and need to find an expert or two to accomplish my vision.
Go to city hall. There will be a desk for development...what name it is, well, that will change depend on the municipality. Talk to the staff and tell them what you want, and they'll send you to the right place.
You want to talk to engineering and development staff and ask them who the best developers are. They will recommend who you should meet, and maybe even introduce you.
When you are changing land use designations like this, it is very helpful to be familiar with city staff. The staff are the people who write the reports that go to council. Council depends on those reports for information to help them decide which way to vote.
Ideally, you want a developer who is well known at city call, is used to working with staff, and is appreciated for their attitude. Density bonusing can be achieved in exchange for amenities, and if your developer has a history of making these kinds of horse trades with the city, all the better.
What you don't want is a partner who gets the staff's backs up, and doesn't know how to get the best bang for their buck out of the development.
Six years of city hall experience and in the construction field on my end.