The City of Richmond is rounding third and heading home in a deal to acquire the Diamond.
The city is working a plan to take ownership of the aging ball field and the nine acres where it sits. The Richmond planning commission on Monday will consider an ordinance to allow the city to acquire the property from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, which has owned the Diamond for almost 30 years.
The deal is one of the first major public steps by Mayor Dwight Jones’ office to position property holdings as it works plans for a new ballpark and a leaves open land for a potential mixed-use development to take the Diamond’s place.
“Since we’re in the process of moving toward building a new diamond, we worked out with the RMA that they would return the Diamond, along with the parking, to the city,” Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall said.
The RMA was granted the stadium’s land on North Boulevard from the city in 1984 with an agreement that the property would revert to the city if a new ballpark was constructed.
If the deal is approved, the city will lease the Diamond back to the RMA for $1 a year until any point when new ballpark is constructed, Marshall said. The city would then be responsible for demolition of the Diamond.
The deal would add to the city’s control land that’s squarely in the middle of a proposed redevelopment zone between Hermitage Road and North Boulevard. The Diamond’s nine acres abut several city-owned parcels totaling more than 45 acres. Should the city acquire the Diamond, it would own about 60 developable acres in that area.
That property would likely become more attractive depending on the direction of a new stadium plan.
A new ballpark on Boulevard, Marshall said, would take up about 30 acres.
“One thought would be to take the southwest portion of the Boulevard tract where we currently have a maintenance facility for our vehicles as well as a storage facility for our schools, tear those down and build a [new] Diamond there,” Marshall said. “Schools will be moving off of that site by the end of the first quarter, and those two buildings will be ready to be demolished.”
Marshall did not address any potential role the Boulevard tract could play should the city strike a deal to build a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom or whether it might use proceeds from a sale of land on Boulevard to fund a downtown venue.
If a ballpark went into Shockoe Bottom, “instead of being able to develop 30 acres or so, there would be 60 acres available,” Marshall said of the Boulevard site.
The RMA has been transferring its assets to the city and has moved ownership of a number of parking decks back to the city. The transfers have been brought about by proposals to equalize representation on the RMA’s 10-member board of directors between Henrico and Chesterfield counties and the city.
A bill introduced by Del. Manoli Loupassi in the Virginia General Assembly this year called for the boards of supervisors for Henrico and Chesterfield counties as well as the city’s mayor’s office to appoint three members each to the 10-member board. That proposal died in committee.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last week that Loupassi is preparing another piece of legislation that would require each of the three localities to approve of any initiative carried out by the newly named Richmond Regional Transportation Authority.
RMA General Manager Angela Gray did not return a phone call by press time seeking comment on the ongoing property transfers.