The closing of a 90-day window for proposals to replace the aging Richmond Coliseum and redevelop surrounding blocks downtown came and went earlier this month, with a single respondent submitting a plan before the Feb. 9 deadline.
That lone entry was from a group of Richmond business heavyweights, led by Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell, who had already been plotting such a plan, which includes building a new arena, a new convention center hotel and a transformation of much of the acreage bound by North Fifth, East Marshall, North 10th and East Leigh streets.
Mayor Levar Stoney’s office did not identify the respondent group or release details of the proposal when it made the announcement on Friday.
“The North of Broad area presents a tremendous opportunity for transformational change, and as I stated from the onset, we set a high bar for respondents because that’s what we have to do to achieve true neighborhood revitalization,” Stoney said in a release.
A spokesman for Farrell’s group confirmed Friday that it had submitted its proposal.
Stoney announced the RFP in November, a few months after reports that Farrell, Altria CEO Marty Barington, retired SunTrust executive C.T. Hill and others were piecing together their plan.
The group had retained seasoned developers and zeroed in on some details, including eyeing a 17,000- to 18,000-seat arena where the Coliseum now stands, a multi-level food and entertainment complex within the Blues Armory, and a new hotel, likely around 400 rooms.
Dubbed by the city as the North of Broad/Downtown Neighborhood Redevelopment Project, the RFP called for much of the same major pieces that Farrell’s group was mulling while allowing Stoney to add in his desires for mixed-income housing, reuse of sites occupied by outdated city buildings, job creation for local residents, workforce development and involvement of minority-owned businesses in the development process.
The area in question involves 20 properties, 15 of which are owned by the city or an affiliated entity. The largest of those parcels is the 7 acres upon which the Coliseum stands.
Also on the city’s wishlist is a new 65,000-square-foot transfer station for GRTC in the vicinity.
Proposals also had to include a plan for financing that would not increase the city’s debt load, but that could potentially take advantage of tax-increment financing, which allows for new tax revenue generated by the project to be put back into the development.
Respondents also had to have a plan for the city-owned Coliseum’s existing $2.9 million debt load.
Nearly two dozen parties expressed casual interest in the RFP prior to an initial deadline, but only Farrell’s group, now NH District Corp., submitted necessary materials by the deadline.
The group disseminated a survey and hosted a series of community meetings in recent weeks to poll citizens on their desires for that area and present its plans leading up to the this month’s submission deadline.
The city said Friday it will now begin reviewing the submission, a process expected to take 30 days. If the proposals meets the criteria, contract negotiation would then begin, with an expected conclusion by the end of September.
“I expect a thorough and meticulous review process, and we will only move forward if the proposal is in the best interests of the city and does not negatively impact the city’s finances and debt capacity,” Stoney said in the release. “If the proposal does not live up to the goals set forth in the RFP, then we will have to explore other alternatives.”
Any final agreements with the respondents would then be presented to City Council, expected before the end of the year.