The multimillion-dollar deal between the city and Bon Secours to help make the Washington Redskins training camp a reality in Richmond took another big step Monday night.
The city council approved a proposal that would finance the Redskins facility behind the Virginia Museum of Science, despite opposition from neighborhood residents and two council members.
The final vote was 6-2. Council member Bruce Tyler of the West End, who has publicly opposed the deal, and Chris Hilbert, who represents Northside, voted against.
The multifaceted deal includes a major investment from Bon Secours sought by the city and a piece of West End real estate that the health-care organization has eyed for years.
Bon Secours will pay for naming rights on the Redskins facility on DMV Drive and Leigh Street and a 10-year lease on an office building attached to the new fields, a deal valued at almost $6.5 million. The Richmond Economic Development Authority will develop the 17-acre property, which is owned by the state, to bypass some of the procurement processes that the city would have to go through. Development could cost as much as $10 million, according to city estimates.
Monday’s vote means that city council gave its approval, in principal, to the general framework of the deal orchestrated by Mayor Dwight Jones. All the construction, including the Redskins training camp fields, will still have to be approved through the special use permit process, as will the financing.
In a public comment session Monday that lasted well over an hour, more than a dozen people spoke out against the deal, citing a lack of community input, especially a piece of the deal that gives Bon Secours long-term use of the city-owned Westhampton School property at Libbie and Patterson avenues.
The arrangement, which grants Bon Secours use of four acres of the Westhampton School property for a planned 75,000-sqauare-foot medical facility, came under fire from Councilman Tyler last week and at Monday’s meeting.
Tyler, who represents the West End neighborhood where the Westhampton property is located, called it a “back-room deal.”
At Monday’s meeting, Tyler said residents in his district are not opposed to the Redskins training camp.
“I don’t think I got one email saying ‘I don’t want the Redskins to come here,’” Tyler said. “What I got was ‘we don’t like how this deal came together.’”
Tyler moved to have the Westhampton School property stripped from the resolution in order to allow the members of his district a chance to fully voice their opinions.
The city offered Bon Secours four acres of the Westhampton School property for 60 years at $5,000 a year.
Tyler’s proposed amendment was voted down 6-2 after Council President Kathy Graziano explained that that would not work.
“This is a package,” Graziano said. “If we remove one of the pieces of that package, we don’t have a deal.”
For its end of the deal, Bon Secours in addition to the estimated $6.5 million for the athletic complex and the eventual Westhampton facility, committed to building an $8.5 million expansion of its Richmond Community Hospital on the East End. The city is looking to increase citizens’ access to medical care in that part of town.
Bon Secours estimates the total package should add 200 jobs in the city.
Two acres of city-owned athletic fields at the western edge of the Westhampton property would also have to be maintained by Bon Secours as part of arrangement. The city would retain ownership of the fields.
Councilman Charles Samuels, who represents the district where the Redskins facility is planned, said he would insist that Bon Secours preserve the historic school building.
“I think we all know that Bon Secours is an organization that does quite well for themselves,” Samuels said at the meeting. “I think we need to make clear as we go forward that this is a building that shall be preserved. Not ‘We’d like it if you would,’ not ‘It would be nice if you could.’ It shall be preserved.”
Rich Johnson, chief executive of the Wilton Companies and chairman of the city’s Economic Development Authority, praised the deal at the meeting, saying that it was “virtually guaranteed to be a success,” since the agreement with Bon Secours covered almost 80 percent of the development costs up front.
“This is a very safe investment,” Johnson said.