The city has advanced its plan to bring the Redskins to Richmond a few more yards.
The Richmond Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday on three measures that move the deed on the Westhampton School property at Patterson and Libbie avenues to the city’s Economic Development Authority. That property is part of a deal with the Bon Secours hospital organization to sponsor and help pay for a Redskins training facility and expand two its hospitals.
The commission also on Monday approved an agreement to move $10 million from the city jail project, school construction and planned City Stadium renovations to the EDA to pay for the development of the Redskins training facility on 17 acres on Leigh Street behind the Virginia Museum of Science.
The EDA is an organization separate from the city that focuses on promoting the city and attracting companies to relocate here. In this case, it’s being used to bypass some of the red tape involved in development of the Redskins property to get it up and running for next summer’s training camp. The EDA will also be the landlord for the Redskins and for Bon Secours at the Westhampton property.
At Monday’s hearing, Richmond City Manager Byron Marshall said the locality didn’t have the time to put the deal together with Bon Secours with public input.
“It is very difficult to negotiate this kind of deal in the newspapers and with the public,” Marshall said. “We weren’t trying to be less than transparent. The deal itself dictated that we had to move quickly.”
Marshall said the city had about 13 months from the time of the governor’s announcement in June that the Redskins would move their training camp to Richmond and would open for the 2013 season. When you factor in about eight months of construction, it only had about five months to get the deal together, Marshall explained.
The mayor’s office pitched the deal to Bon Secours on Sept. 6, and by Sept. 10, Bon Secours had accepted the deal, Marshall said. The mayor finally announced the deal Oct. 22.
City Council last week approved the framework of the deal that gives Bon Secours the use of four acres of the Westhampton School property for 60 years at $5,000 per year in exchange for bankrolling about $6.3 million of the Redskins’ training facility through naming rights and rent on attached office space.
Additionally, the health system committed to maintaining the public ball fields on the school property, which will cost about $28,000 per year. Bon Secours also committed to expanding its Richmond Community Hospital in the East End by 25,000 square feet.
Representatives from Bon Secours told the planning commission it probably would not be able to begin work on the East End site for another three years while it works out property issues.
Planning commission member Lynn McAteer at Monday’s meeting asked representatives of the mayor’s office why the Redskins didn’t put any money into the deal. Rich Johnson, head of local real estate holdings firm the Wilton Companies and chairman of the Economic Development Authority, said that the Redskins are such a big draw that they didn’t have to put any money in.
“The power of their brand is such that the market dictates that they don’t have to,” Johnson said. “It creates too much benefit for the local community for them to have to pay.”