City News

Economic Development

City Selects RVA Diamond Partners as the Development Partner for the Diamond District

The City is pleased to announce that after a competitive selection process that began with 15 submissions from around the country last February is now concluded with the selection of RVA Diamond Partners as the city’s development partner for the redevelopment of the Diamond District.

RVA Diamond Partners was selected as the city’s development partner because their vision aligned with city goals. A few of the project’s key features include:

  • Begins the design phase of the baseball stadium as soon as possible with a commitment to purchase the first $20M of bonds to finance the new baseball stadium.
  • Provides a master plan approach to creating a strong sense of place with a balance of open space, walkable blocks, and a mixed-use, mixed-income development program that celebrates the baseball stadium as an important anchor and honors the legacy of Arthur Ashe, Jr.
  • Creates an 11-acre signature park that is envisioned to be a place for all Richmonders to enjoy with several distinct areas and programming planned throughout the year.
  • Provides 20% of the rental units to households earning between 30% - 60% of the area median income (AMI), with at least 100 of the units with project-based vouchers for public housing residents.
  • Provides 20% of the homeownership units to households earning between 60% - 70% of AMI and funding a $1 million fund that will assist affordable home buyers with closing costs and other transaction expenses.
  • Showcases a diverse ownership team that includes 45% MBE ownership.
  • Seeks to include MBE/ESB business throughout the project from ownership and development to construction and operations, maintenance, and leasing inclusive of employment, contracting, and leasing.
  • Desires to partner with the Richmond Public School Board to develop a Technical Training Center at the Maury Street and Richmond Highway former Altria site to create an available workforce with sufficient experience to support the development of the Diamond District, and other development projects throughout the city.

This evening a resolution “to select RVA Diamond Partners LLC as the developer of the Diamond District site and express City Council’s support for the proposed business terms and conditions for the development of the Diamond District” will be introduced at the end of the City Council meeting. The resolution will follow Council’s typical review process and may be voted on at the City Council meeting on September 26, 2022. Once the resolution is approved, the City and RVA Diamond Partners will use the term sheet as the basis for developing the definitive written agreements, which will be brought back to Council for final approval later this fall.

Ways to learn more:

  1. City to host an in-person meeting to give an overview of the selection process and the project, and answer questions.
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 at 6:00 PM
  • Bon Secours Training Center (2401 W. Leigh St)
  • The meeting will be also simulcast on Teams Live: meeting link and attendee dial in  number 804-316-9457 (Conference ID: 693 704 099#).

  1. City will host a telephone town hall to give and an overview of the project and answer questions about the project.
  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 6:30 PM
  • To register for the telephone town hall click here.

  1. Members of the public can also provide questions or comments on the project by filling out this form.

Support for the Diamond District:

Mayor Levar Stoney:  “This proposal meets our goals to equitably revitalize an underdeveloped part of our city and maximize its potential to enhance the quality of life for all Richmonders. Commitments to affordable housing, minority business engagement, publicly accessible open space and a new ballpark mean that the Diamond District will be enjoyed by, built by, and benefit all residents of our city. The Diamond District has long been a diamond in the rough. I look forward to seeing it shine.”

Council President Cynthia Newbille:  “Economic development is truly not a broad enough term to describe the project.  It is my hope that we can see the Diamond District plan brought to fruition to benefit our entire city from jobs, housing, sports and entertainment, and business development.  This plan helps us to continue to change the narrative of our city and its residents.  I am looking forward to seeing the result of months of hard work and dedication by the team of proven professionals.” 

Council Vice-President Ellen Robertson:  “I believe a rising tide lifts all boats. While I understand that one project can’t change the whole story, it can affect one chapter.  When we began the process for the Diamond District, many ideas were considered, but it all came down to what was in the Small Area Plan and the Richmond 300 Plan – both had city-wide input – and looked to change how we did development in Richmond.  Fast forward to September 2022, and we have come to a point where tonight, we will find out the development team chosen for the project as well as see the term sheet for the first time.  I am certain that my colleagues, Councilwomen Lambert and Jordan along with staff and community partners are presenting us with a comprehensive plan that represents inclusivity and a bold step forward.”

Councilmember Andreas Addison:  “The City continues to strive to create inclusive opportunities from development projects to those who become the end users.  When the Diamond District project was proposed, we understood that this would be the Small Area Plan in motion.  I will be thrilled to see what the culmination of months of collaboration looks like when the Diamond District Plan is unveiled. It is an understatement to say that my colleagues along with staff and community partners have put a great amount of time and effort into getting us to a place of plan terms review and next steps.”

Councilmember Ann Frances Lambert: “Having a role on the Diamond District evaluation panel and seeing the level of effort the process has required has given me renewed confidence in our city team.  Their attention to detail, and the desire to ensure that we get the right plan and the right team on board to produce the best outcome for our city is truly second to none. This project is a sign that we can create inclusive projects that take into account all aspects of our community.   I am excited about the team we have chosen and am thrilled not only to introduce them but to work alongside them to see the completion of the project.”

Councilmember Michael Jones: “There are many goals for economic development projects, and oft-times we meet one goal but unfortunately leave out others that would make the entire project equitable for all.  Based on the direction that was given for the Diamond District, beginning with the RFI process, the Diamond District plan looks to change the standard of development projects not just in Richmond but the region.  With the introduction of tonight’s paper, we, as a council, have the opportunity to move the needle forward and make sure we get the ball across the finish line later this month.”

Councilmember Stephanie Lynch: “This is an exciting opportunity for Richmond and strikes the right balance of fair and equitable development that will yield returns for the community for many years to come. We have come a long way from the deals of the past and I am truly proud of this one that will help solidify Richmond's future.”

Councilmember Katherine Jordan: “Councilmember Katherine Jordan:  Richmonders asked for a dynamic, multi-use, mixed-income neighborhood that provides more housing and green space, while keeping baseball on Arthur Ashe Boulevard and the Squirrels in Richmond. RVA Diamond Partners’ proposal delivers on that vision, and I am thrilled to partner with them to make it a reality. As a member of the evaluation panel, getting to the final team was difficult. I’m grateful to all the groups who submitted proposals. There were exceptional ideas, individuals, and organizations on each and every team. The design we chose has many winning attributes and will create a neighborhood with its own Richmond identity anchored by a multi-tenant stadium and a major, new public park. This project brings new revenue; new jobs; new housing; and a new, major public park – all anchored by a first class Richmond ballpark for our beloved Squirrels and Rams.”

Jason Guillot of Thalhimer Realty Partners and RVA Diamond Partners: “RVA Diamond Partners is thrilled to be selected to develop the Diamond District. Our plan features an exciting new ballpark for the Flying Squirrels and VCU, an 11-acre public park and an overall vision that creates a dynamic and inclusive mixed-use urban community. Our plan provides important community benefits for all Richmond residents while serving as an iconic gateway for visitors to our great city.”

Michael Rao, Ph.D., President of VCU and VCU Health:  "We're pleased with this important next step in realizing the vision for our exciting partnership with the Diamond District. This is a milestone moment for VCU, student-athletes and our city. This transformational project will further support the Rams as we compete at the highest national level as an NCAA Division 1 program.”

Ed McLaughlin, Vice President and Director of Athletics: "Taking this next step with the City of Richmond and the Richmond Flying Squirrels represents the final step in making our vision for that area a reality. We have worked tirelessly over the last six years to bring this vision to fruition, and we have landed on the cusp of that goal. Our student-athletes, university and the entire Richmond community will benefit greatly from the amazing facilities that our Athletic Village will provide along with the new ballpark as part of the Diamond District and this transformational project."

Rob Long, President of the Greater Scott’s Addition Association: “We really appreciate the City’s diligence in running the process to select a team. The City worked closely with our association and neighbors to ensure that our voice was heard and we are so excited to see this project come to a realization. It will be an asset for everyone in the city, not just Scott’s Addition.”

Lou DiBella, Richmond Flying Squirrels:  “The Richmond Flying Squirrels are proud to be an anchor tenant of this proposed revitalization and development of the Diamond District, a natural extension of the growth of our beloved hometown. The Squirrels will be the most well-known neighbors in a new, diverse, and dynamic neighborhood. We commit to being a great neighbor and to making memories together for decades to come.

As we race toward home in our quest for a new ballpark, we are grateful to the Mayor, his City team, the Richmond City Councilmembers, VCU, and all of the other officials who have gotten us to this point. So many people have worked tirelessly to reach consensus, all understanding the need to serve the communal interest of our RVA community. How reassuring in 2022!”

Mayor Stoney announces Strategic Plan for Equitable Economic Development (SPEED)

Mayor Stoney today unveiled the city’s Strategic Plan for Equitable Economic Development (SPEED). 

The plan, which will be introduced at tonight’s Richmond City Council meeting, focuses on community, innovation, and industry, and establishes five aggressive economic development goals through Fiscal Year 2026:

  • $3 billion in announced capital investment for economic development projects;
  • 3,000 announced new jobs with annual salaries at or above $52,000;
  • Reduce the poverty rate by 5 percentage points;
  • Public and private sector real estate development activities that generate $25 million in annual real estate tax revenue; and
  • 2,500 postsecondary credentials awarded to Richmond residents.

The plan outlines tangible steps toward addressing long-standing inequities that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including racial disparities in education, poverty, housing, and health. Each of the plan’s initiatives are designed to build a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable economy for Richmond.

“This plan is Richmond’s roadmap to economic prosperity,” said Mayor Stoney. “It’s a forward-looking assessment of the trends that got us where we are today and those that will carry us into the future. But this is not just an economic development plan. This is an economic justice plan.”

SPEED was developed in consultation with TIP Strategies; VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis; The M Companies; Hugh Helen LLC; input from meetings with more than 200 community and business leaders and stakeholders; and a survey that had more than 800 unique responses.

“The City’s new strategic plan for equitable economic development is a smart guide for how to grow our community,” said Jennifer Wakefield, President and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership. “The plan addresses inequities further exacerbated by the pandemic and provides solutions to bring prosperity to our residents in the city and for all who call our region home.”

“The Metropolitan Business League is encouraged to see the aggressive measures incorporated into Mayor Stoney’s [economic development] strategic plan for the city. We, too, believe that a multi-pronged approach is a critical component in supporting minority businesses. MBL agrees with the city that launching creative new business models can help create greater opportunities for business ownership and wealth creation,” said Floyd E Miller II, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Business League. “We stand ready to collaborate with the city as it strives to close the gaps in economic disparities, achieve greater equity, and accelerate growth to create more opportunities for Richmonders.”

“SPEED gives Richmond a plan to increase General Fund revenue through sound initiatives to reduce economic inequities, retain and grow existing businesses, and attract new businesses to the City,” said City Council Vice President Ellen Robertson.  “Essential to this is the emphasis on minority owned businesses, small businesses, and larger corporations.”

“Every day we see the impact of a City rife with inequities,” said City Councilmember Michael Jones. “The Strategic Plan for Equitable Economic Development (SPEED) is incredibly well crafted and will serve as a meaningful benchmark on our City’s path toward true equity. It seeks to address and offer solutions for many of the long-standing economic and social disparities experienced in our communities of color. If we have learned anything throughout this pandemic, it is that the City remains resilient. I am hopeful that SPEED will further our growth exponentially for years to come.”

“For our city’s future to be equitable, inclusive, and thriving, we must be intentional around our investment and economic development,” said City Councilmember Andreas Addison. “This plan outlines key tasks and priorities to address Richmond’s historical challenges in income, education, and housing gaps. I look forward to collaborating with the Mayor, the Administration, and my fellow Councilmembers to act on these priorities.”

For more information and to read the plan in full, visit https://www.rva.gov/economic-development/speed.

City invites three finalists to respond to Request for Offers in Diamond District project

Teams made the competitive cut because their design, program strength, community benefits and financing approaches meet high city expectations, align with vision for area

Three finalists in the Diamond District redevelopment project will be asked to respond to a Request for Offers (RFO). The RFO will be issued the week of May 30, 2022, and responses will be due June 28, 2022.

The city anticipates announcing the preferred team and terms of the agreement in July. The city reserves the right to alter the process and timeline as needed to ensure the greatest benefit is derived for the city and its residents in the creation of this new mixed-use neighborhood.

THE FINALISTS

After carefully considering the responses to the Request for Interest (RFI) and Request for Additional Information (RFAI), the Evaluation Panel has selected three finalist teams based on their design, program strength, community benefits and financing approaches (listed alphabetically):

  • Richmond Community Development Partners
  • RVA Diamond Partners
  • Vision300 Partners, LLC

OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN ABOUT THE PROPOSALS

The finalist teams prepared one-page summaries of their team, concept, and design. Those summaries are available to the public here.

In early June, the city will host a public meeting to update Richmonders on the process. Information on that meeting will be available here.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

About the Diamond District project

The Diamond District project is just one aspect of Richmond 300: A Plan for Growth, which has been awarded the 2021 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan for the American Planning Association. The plan provides a detailed roadmap to ensure “Richmond is a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, innovative, sustainable, and equitable city of thriving neighborhoods, ensuring a high quality of life for all.”

About the Diamond District Evaluation Panel
 

The Evaluation Panel is comprised of 10 members, including City Council members, city administrative staff, and VCU administrative staff.

Communication with the Panel

Members of the public can send comments/questions to the Diamond District Evaluation Panel by using this form. This form is publicly posted on the project page. Do not email the Evaluation Panel members, facilitator, or advisors about the Diamond District project, as emails sent directly to the Evaluation Panel about this project will not be read. Comments and questions will be reviewed every other week and distributed to the Evaluation Panel during the evaluation process.

Evaluation Panel Members

  1. James P. Duval – Investment and Debt Portfolio Manager, Finance Department
  2. Sharon L. Ebert – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Planning and Economic Development
  3. Karol Kain Gray – Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, Virginia Commonwealth University
  4. Katherine Jordan – Council Member, Second District
  5. Ann-Frances Lambert – Council Member, Third District
  6. J.E. Lincoln Saunders – Chief Administrative Officer
  7. Leonard L. Sledge – Director, Department of Economic Development
  8. Caprichia Smith Spellman – Interim Director, Office of Community Wealth Building
  9. Robert C. Steidel – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Operations
  10. Stephen M. Willoughby – Director of Emergency Communications

Evaluation Panel Facilitator

Maritza Mercado Pechin, Deputy Director, Department of Planning and Development Review, is the Project Manager for the Diamond District redevelopment process. She runs the evaluation panel meetings, coordinate logistics, and serve as the official point of contact between the evaluation panel and the respondents.

Evaluation Panel Advisors

These individuals will attend evaluation panel meetings and offer expertise as needed.

  • Lynne S. Lancaster – Deputy Director, Department of Public Works
  • Matthew A. Welch – Policy Advisor, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio

City invites six Diamond District respondents to respond to a Request for Additional Information

The City of Richmond is officially inviting 6 development teams to submit responses to Request for Additional Information (RFAI).

On February 15, 2022, the city received 15 submissions from development teams in response to the Diamond District Request for Interest (RFI) issued on December 28, 2021.

“The city is extremely pleased with the amount of interest in redeveloping this over 67-acre site,” said Deputy Director for Equitable Development Maritza Mercado Pechin. “Considering the area’s potential, this enthusiasm comes as no surprise. As we continue this careful and competitive process, we’re more optimistic than ever that the Diamond District will go far in supporting our growing city.”

The Diamond District Evaluation Panel reviewed the 15 submissions against the evaluation criteria listed in RFI. Based on the evaluation, six development teams have been invited to continue in the competitive process and respond to the RFAI (listed alphabetically):

  • Diamond District Gateway Partners
  • MAG Partners
  • Richmond Community Development Partners
  • RVA Diamond Partners
  • Vision300 Partners, LLC
  • Weller Development Company and LMXD

Based on its evaluation of RFAI responses, the Evaluation Panel will select development teams to respond to a Request for Offers.

The RFAI is a new intermediate step that the city has added to the Diamond District redevelopment process to facilitate the careful and competitive redevelopment of this strategic development opportunity. The city added the RFAI step to the process to collect more information for respondents prior to issuing a Request for Offers to the finalists. For the Request for Additional information (RFAI) document, please visit www.rva.gov/economic-development/diamond. Submissions are due on April 25, 2022 at 3 p.m.

The City anticipates the following evaluation process as outlined below. The City reserves the right to alter the process at any point to ensure the greatest benefit is derived for the City and its citizens.

  • RFAI Submissions Due – RFAI submissions are due no later than 3:00 p.m. ET on April 25, 2022.
  • RFAI Evaluation – The Evaluation Panel reviews the RFAI Responses.
  • Announcement of the Finalists – The City anticipates narrowing down the RFAI Respondents to its finalists the week of May 9, 2022.
  • Public Meeting –The City anticipates hosting a public meeting the week of May 24, 2022.
  • Request for Offers (RFO) – The City anticipates issuing the RFO to the Finalists the week of May 24, 2022.
  • RFO Submissions Due – The City anticipates that the RFO submissions will be due the week of June 6, 2022.
  • RFO Evaluation, Negotiation and Selection – The City will negotiate with one or more of the finalists to derive the best and highest benefit to the City and its residents. The City anticipates announcing its preferred development team in June 2022.

About the Diamond District project

The Diamond District project is just one aspect of Richmond 300: A Plan for Growth, which has been awarded the 2021 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan for the American Planning Association. The plan provides a detailed roadmap to ensure “Richmond is a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, innovative, sustainable, and equitable city of thriving neighborhoods, ensuring a high quality of life for all.”

About the Diamond District Evaluation Panel

The Evaluation Panel is comprised of 10 members, including City Council members, city administrative staff, and VCU administrative staff.

Communication with the Panel: Members of the public can send comments/questions to the Diamond District Evaluation Panel by using this form. This form is publicly posted on the project page. Do not email the Evaluation Panel members, facilitator, or advisors about the Diamond District project, as emails sent directly to the Evaluation Panel about this project will not be read. Comments and questions will be reviewed every other week and distributed to the Evaluation Panel during the evaluation process.

Evaluation Panel Members

  1. James P. Duval – Investment and Debt Portfolio Manager, Finance Department
  2. Sharon L. Ebert – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Planning and Economic Development
  3. Karol Kain Gray – Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, Virginia Commonwealth University
  4. Katherine Jordan – Council Member, Second District
  5. Ann-Frances Lambert – Council Member, Third District
  6. J.E. Lincoln Saunders – Chief Administrative Officer
  7. Leonard L. Sledge – Director, Department of Economic Development
  8. Caprichia Smith Spellman – Interim Director, Office of Community Wealth Building
  9. Robert C. Steidel – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Operations
  10. Stephen M. Willoughby – Director of Emergency Communications

Evaluation Panel Facilitator: Maritza Mercado Pechin, Deputy Director, Department of Planning and Development Review, is the Project Manager for the Diamond District redevelopment process and will run the evaluation panel meetings, coordinate logistics, and serve as the official point of contact between the evaluation panel and the respondents.

Evaluation Panel Advisors: These individuals will attend evaluation panel meetings and offer expertise as needed.

  • Matthew A. Welch – Policy Advisor, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio
  • Lynne S. Lancaster – Deputy Director, Department of Public Works

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Relief, investment, and opportunity creation in the City of Richmond

City officials are poised to put forth a new resolution to bring the One Casino + Resort to Richmond.  Empowered with the knowledge that residents want to know how the casino revenue will be spent, city staff proposes a two-cent tax rate reduction and uses the additional revenue for one-time capital improvement projects for Richmond City Public Schools and the City of Richmond.

The infusion of 1500 jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth and development that will help Richmond grow is exactly what many leaders and community members desire.

But it is much more than dollars and cents, it is also about closing gaps and providing relief.  Equity and community wealth gaps can be narrowed with this one project.  As the city continues to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the casino project can assist with leveling the playing field for many Richmonders who continue to struggle during these uncertain and unprecedented times.  This resolution doubles down on the city’s commitment to creating “One Richmond”.

"Our city needs to explore opportunities that create new jobs, generate new revenues, and create new tourism destinations,” said Councilman Andreas Addison. “This is more than a casino, it’s a new privately funded entertainment district for music, arts, and other amenities in the heart of southside where more investment opportunities are needed. I support the democratic process to explore this project."

While the proposed ideas center around tax rate reduction and capital improvement projects, which are both areas that provide relief for Richmond residents, the main relief can be found in providing jobs for those hardest hit by COVID.  Relief can be found in the revenue being used to address transit mobility issues.  Relief can also be found in the revenue being used to address diversifying the city’s economic engines that can bring sustainable change to Richmond.

"I strongly believe that the revenue from the resort casino project can purposefully be used to provide property tax relief for residents across the city,” said Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert.  Richmond is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.  In fact, in the 3rd district, there are working families, seniors, and other residents on fixed incomes who are unable to pay for their increased property taxes.  They are at risk of losing their homes.  At the end of the day, I think that this project will help mitigate one of our city’s top issues."

Introducing new economic engines into the city is extremely important as the community looks strategically at moving away from being dependent on the government.

“Economic development is a top priority for 2022. A lack of diversity in revenue sources makes the cost of living in Richmond too high,” states Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. “As such, in 2022, we should focus on economic development to include: the Boulevard, Downtown/Central City Small Area Plan, $20M investment in affordable housing, South Richmond 1-95 Gateway and Urban One Hotel Casino Resort - which will create thousands of jobs, reduce real-estate taxes tremendously, and assist with completing facilities and infrastructure development throughout the city.  When we increase employment, increase tax revenue and retail sales, and put community benefits in place that will drastically impact the lives of citizens, we are certainly putting the community first.”

As Richmonders look towards the future of their city, officials have heard the need for more jobs, bringing the right development that benefits all of Richmond, and growing through sustainable economic development.

“The One Casino + Resort opportunity makes sense for our entire community.  Our residents should have the chance to change the narrative of their city and One Casino + Resort helps us do that,” stated Councilwoman Reva Trammell.  “Providing jobs and access is paramount to what we believe in doing in Richmond.  With the One Casino + Resort, we can jumpstart careers, provide access and wealth-building opportunities for those who need them, create spaces for creativity, and provide new educational outlets.  This is what inclusive development looks like – something for everyone.”

While the proposals have to be vetted, it is important to highlight some of the community benefits if One Casino + Resort calls Richmond home –

  • No city funding required
  • Capital Investment over $560M which can be spent on improvement projects in Richmond City Schools and the City of Richmond
  • Influx of 1500 jobs for those who need them most
  • $16M to support local community organizations which assists with decreasing the wealth gap
  • $325K to support transit mobility solutions which creates more access

Councilmember Michael Jones echoes the sentiments of his colleagues.  “Investment in our community and our people is the key to the casino project.  There is no time like the present to ensure that our residents know we are committed to creating a better Richmond for everyone,” said Councilmember Michael Jones. “While the casino may be housed on the Southside, its benefits will be felt citywide.”

The community benefits encompass all of Richmond therefore all Richmonders win.

“Our residents deserve tax relief and access to good jobs,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “They want public infrastructure improvements and more funding for school capital projects. This project provides a unique opportunity to do just that. I know City Council is committed to creating opportunities that uplift and support ALL Richmond residents, and I’m hopeful tonight’s vote affirms this shared commitment.”

This project is about the people of Richmond.  It is about providing security, relief, jobs, and investment which leads to a brighter future for the entire city.

Patrons for the resolution include President Newbille, Vice President Robertson, Councilman Jones, Councilwoman Trammell, Councilwoman Lambert, Councilman Addison, and Mayor Stoney.

The proposed resolution will be introduced at today’s City Council Meeting at 6 PM.

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