Planners of a proposed downtown ballpark development made a pitch to and fielded questions from residents and business owners Monday night at the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association’s monthly meeting.
“The area you are looking at for redevelopment is mostly parking lots. There really hasn’t been any significant development here since [tropical storm] Gaston,” said Highwoods Vice President Paul Kreckman. “The land we are looking at acquiring currently generates less than $150,000 a year in taxes.”
No major new details emerged about the plan for the $363 million dollar mixed-use development, nor did any vocal opposition rise from attendees.
More than 50 people showed up for the meeting at Main Street Station.
Highwoods Properties was chosen last month by the city to redevelop the area around Main Street Station at Shockoe Bottom. The centerpiece of their proposal is an 8,500-seat ballpark, surrounded by a concourse of shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices and condominiums. The ballpark itself is slated to cost $60 million. From the street level, you wouldn’t know a stadium was there unless someone hit a home run, Kreckman said.
The development could generate millions in municipal taxes. Revenue generated within the 22-acre complex will be used to finance a $40 million bond issue that will fund part of the $60 million stadium. No taxes from outside the park will be used to pay for it, according to Kreckman. Another $15 million bond will be used to finance two parking decks. Renovations to Main Street Station’s train shed will be paid for by about $45 million in state and federal grants to GRTC. The remaining $235 million would come from private investment.
The economy has delayed the timeline somewhat, Kreckman said. The developers would like to open the stadium by 2011, but it probably won’t happen until 2012.
“We hope [to see] the market get better by the end of 2009 and look to have bonds issued in fourth quarter 2009 or first quarter 2010,” Kreckman said.
Residents’ questions focused on traffic, utility interruption and preservation of historic sites related to the area’s history as a center of slavery. Kreckman and city economic developer Jeannie Welliver said traffic would be minimal compared with rush hour, utilities would operate as normal and developers would follow government guidelines for developing historic sites.
David Napier, president of the neighborhood association, said he would like to see a consolidated trash service and improvements to Farmer’s Market become a part of the plan.
“This is about a ballpark, yes, but to me it’s really more about economic development – something we really need next year,” Napier said. “What I’m thinking is we can have a little bit of input to make this project represent our neighborhood.”