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Richmond Weighs Coliseum Redevelopment Advisory Referendum

Richmond Coliseum redevelopment rendering

On Wednesday, the Richmond City Council is expected to decide whether to have an advisory referendum relating to a proposed Richmond Coliseum redevelopment project that includes a new arena.

NH District Corp–a group led by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II–is proposing a $1.5-billion redevelopment of a roughly 10-block area in downtown Richmond that includes the Coliseum site. Current plans call for the construction of a new 17,500-seat arena, which would be surrounded by a slate of amenities that includes a high-rise hotel, a renovated Blues Armory, 1-million square feet of commercial and office space, 260,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 2,500 apartments, and more. The new arena would be owned by the Richmond Economic Development Authority (EDA), with NH District to handle operations and maintenance as part of a lease agreement.

The Richmond City Council is weighing a potential advisory referendum question that would go before voters in November. The referendum would ask voters whether tax revenues from a potential tax-increment financing (TIF) district should be leveraged to pay off bonds for the public component of the initiative, including the new arena. Since the referendum would be advisory, the council would not be legally required to follow the result when the time comes to make its decision on the project.

A special meeting on Tuesday ended without a final decision, so the council will convene to discuss the issue once again on Wednesday evening. That will come ahead of a key deadline on Friday. More from

Council on Tuesday scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. today to hold a public hearing and vote on a proposed resolution calling for citizens to decide whether city revenues from a proposed tax-increment financing (TIF) district should be used to pay off bonds that would fund the public portion of the project, primarily the new 17,500-seat arena that would anchor the project and replace the aging Richmond Coliseum.

The arena, projected to cost $235 million and planned to be the largest in Virginia, is proposed to be funded through nonrecourse revenue bonds, which Mayor Levar Stoney has said would put the financial risk on bondholders and keep city taxpayers from being on the hook for the venue in the event of a project default.

If approved by a majority of council tonight, the resolution could result in a referendum being added to the ballot for Election Day on Nov. 5, though city staff cautioned that would depend on the circuit court filing an order by this Friday, the cutoff to do so….

An expedited vote at Tuesday’s meeting failed due to a lack of a super-majority, with council members Andreas Addison, Michael Jones and Ellen Robertson and president Cynthia Newbille voting against it. [Council member Kim] Gray then called for a second special meeting, at which only a simple majority of five votes would be needed because the resolution already will have been introduced, eliminating the need for an expedited vote.

If it moves forward, the project would result in the demolition of Richmond Coliseum, which first opened in 1971. The proposed scope of the new arena positions it to the largest of its kind in the state of Virginia, and it could be a draw for events such as concerts, sports tournaments, and more.

Rendering courtesy NH District Corp.

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