The courting between the City of Richmond and a group that aims to redevelop the Richmond Coliseum continues, with serious negotiations not likely to begin for another few months.
The city on Thursday said it needs more time to review the proposal submitted Feb. 9 by a group led by Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell. The effort would replace the aging coliseum with a new arena and redevelop much of the surrounding city-owned acreage.
The city said in February the initial review of the proposal would take about 30 days, with negotiations to begin thereafter if the plan met the criteria of the RFP.
But the city wants clarifications from Farrell’s group, which is operating under the name NH District Corp. and was the lone respondent to the RFP.
“As a result of the initial review, we determined that the proposal warrants further consideration,” the city said in an emailed statement. “The next step in the review process will afford the city the opportunity to engage the respondent to request clarifications/pose questions regarding the contents of the proposal.”
The city said it will provide the group with a request for clarifications and time to respond, a process expected to be complete by the end of June.
The statement, from Matthew Welch, senior policy advisor at the Department of Planning and Economic Development, emphasized that this step in the process is not the beginning of a formal negotiation.
“The city will only enter into negotiations with respondent if, following review of the information provided, the city determines moving forward is in its best interest.”
The city did not provide examples of the questions and clarifications it plans to seek from the group, nor has it specified what Farrell’s group proposed.
Mayor Stoney’s office announced the RFP process a few months after news broke that Farrell, along with Altria CEO Marty Barrington, retired SunTrust executive C.T. Hill and others, had been plotting a new arena, new convention center hotel and transformation of about 15 parcels bounded by North Fifth, East Marshall, North 10th and East Leigh streets.
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.
The RFP called for much of the same major pieces, while allowing Stoney to add desires for mixed-income housing, reuse of sites occupied by outdated city buildings, job creation for local residents, workforce development and involvement of minority-owned businesses in the development process.
Proposals also had to include a plan for financing that would not increase the city’s debt load, but that potentially could take advantage of tax-increment financing, which allows for new tax revenue generated by the project to be put back into the development.
The city previously said it would look to have negotiations with the group concluded by the end of September and would have any final agreements presented to City Council before yearend.
But Thursday’s statement made clear the city is not rushing through the process.
“The city’s priority is to continue to conduct a thorough, methodical, and impartial review,” it said.
As to the city’s latest request, Farrell’s group said in an emailed statement Thursday they appreciate Mayor Stoney and his team’s diligence.
“We look forward to continuing the conversation with the City and further engaging the community as we all work together to create an exciting new downtown neighborhood.”