At its Monday meeting, the Richmond City Council effectively killed a proposed development project that included a new arena.
NH District Corp–a group led by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II–had proposed a $1.5-billion redevelopment of a roughly 10-block area in downtown Richmond that includes the Richmond Coliseum site. As part of the proposal, the aging venue would have been replaced by a new 17,500-seat arena that was eyed as a potential ECHL home, while also expected to be designed to accommodate other sporting events and concerts. Among the surrounding amenities would have included a convention center hotel, a renovated Blues Armory, 1-million square feet of commercial and office space, 260,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, over 2,000 residences (condos and apartments), and more.
The project had the support of Richmond mayor Levar Stoney, but a tax increment financing (TIF) plan that would help pay off $300 million in bonds for the public components of the initiative, including the arena, required approval from the city council. On Monday, the city council effectively scrapped the plan by voting 5-4 to accept the meeting agenda without ordinances relating to the project, while also approving a resolution asking Stoney to withdraw the plan and launch a new request for proposals (RFP) process. More from RichmondBizSense.com:
After an impromptu public hearing that stretched over two hours, council voted 5-4 to accept the evening’s meeting agenda without the project’s proposed ordinances included, as the same majority had recommended in a committee meeting a week earlier. The move pre-empted a hearing and vote that President Cynthia Newbille had said would occur at council’s next meeting later this month.
Council similarly voted Monday to adopt a resolution asking Mayor Levar Stoney to withdraw the Navy Hill proposal in favor of a new approach to soliciting proposals from developers, with the goal of revitalizing the area that includes the shuttered Richmond Coliseum and other underutilized city-owned land nearby.
“Tonight is not about saying no; it is about saying yes to a pathway forward that a majority of our citizens has said they want,” said Stephanie Lynch, who made up the majority along with fellow council members Kimberly Gray, Vice President Chris Hilbert, Kristen Larson and Reva Trammel.
Newbille voted the other side along with Andreas Addison, Michael Jones and Ellen Robertson.
“It saddens me that Richmonders won’t benefit from the housing, jobs and economic empowerment this project would bring – and I’m disappointed that council did not follow through on the process they laid out to review and evaluate this transformative project for our city – but I’m resolved to wake up tomorrow and keep working to move our city forward,” Stoney said in a statement issued late Monday to news outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
NH District Corp. issued a statement expressing disappointment with the council’s decision, while standing by the project, per RichmondBizSense.com:
“While we are disappointed that five City Council members rejected the project, we are proud of the proposal that we delivered,” the statement said.
“We were actively working on amendments to incorporate the suggestions we heard, but unfortunately, those who opposed the project voted to end it before learning more – which is regrettable,” the group said, adding later: “…this was a missed opportunity to address many of the issues we have heard about through countless hours of community engagement.”…
“Our proposal would have revitalized downtown – creating thousands of jobs, investing $300 million in minority-owned businesses, building a historic number of affordable housing units, and creating a new stream of revenue to fund Richmond Public Schools, infrastructure improvements, workforce training, and more.
“We remain grateful to the four members of Council who carefully studied the project and collaborated to make it even better,” the group said.
For now, the council’s action leaves plenty of questions about Richmond’s long-term arena situation. The Coliseum welcomed plenty of sporting and non-sporting events in its heyday, but it has not hosted a public event since December 2018. In theory, any future redevelopment proposals for the area that includes the Coliseum could propose a new arena or perhaps a renovation of some sort, but time will tell if another plan for the venue emerges in the future. The arena included in the NH District Corp’s proposal would have been the largest of its kind in the state of Virginia.
Rendering courtesy NH District Corp.
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