Coliseum redevelopment planning leans on local businesses

An aerial rendering of the proposed new arena and the surrounding buildings. (Courtesy

Monday’s document dump for the proposed Navy Hill redevelopment revealed not only the $1.5 billion project’s nitty-gritty details, but also the businesses playing a part in bringing the plan to life, with several Richmond-based firms among them.

Documents submitted to City Council and posted on the city’s website list more than 30 firms that have contributed to the project. About half of those businesses are locally based, ranging from Richmond architecture firms Baskervill and SMBW to area contractors Branch Builds, Hourigan and W.M. Jordan Co.

Assembled by Capital City Partners, the master developer team retained by Navy Hill’s NH District Corp., the firms are listed on the original proposal that NH District Corp. submitted to the city in early 2018 as the lone respondent to a request for proposals. That proposal is among the documents that were made public Monday.

As such, the group represents firms that consulted on or contributed to the project up to that point, and does not necessarily indicate that those firms would be hired for the project if it receives council approval.

Local design consultants include engineering firm Timmons, landscape architect Waterstreet Studio, and VHB, which handled site civil engineering and transportation design.

Other locally based consultants include Sustainable Design Consulting and Dominion Energy – whose CEO, Tom Farrell, is leading NH District Corp., the group of Richmond business leaders pushing the proposal.

Dominion’s involvement in the project is as a sustainability consultant, with innovation advisor Joe Tannery, and new technology and energy conservation director Nathan Frost, listed on the proposal as team members.

While not otherwise mentioned as involved in Navy Hill, beyond Farrell’s participation, Dominion’s ties to the project include company spokesman Grant Neely representing NH District Corp. in community meetings and presentations, as well as the inclusion of Dominion’s new tower on South Sixth Street and current headquarters building that’s eyed for replacement in a proposed TIF district that would help fund Navy Hill through tax-increment financing revenues.

Other local players on the development team include law firms McGuireWoods and Roth Jackson, with the latter’s Mark Kronenthal and Jennifer Mullen handling land use and entitlements work. VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis is providing economics analysis.

On the real estate side, tenant consultants include Charles Wentworth and David Wilkins – at the time with CBRE|Richmond, now Colliers International – and Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer’s Connie Nielsen. Public relations is being handled by Jeff Kelley and SIR’s John Martin and Rachel Burgess.

Not listed on the development team but also involved in Navy Hill is wealth management firm Davenport & Co., which the city hired to provide financial consulting. Local nonprofits involved on the city side include Better Housing Coalition, which has been named to oversee the income-based housing part of the project. Atlantic Union Bank and nonprofit The Community Foundation have pledged $10 million toward that effort.

Selection process

Susan Eastridge and Michael Hallmark discuss the project at a media briefing Tuesday. (Jonathan Spiers)

In a media briefing Tuesday at Capital City Partners’ downtown studio, Michael Hallmark of Future Cities, an urban design firm sharing master developer duties with Northern Virginia-based Concord Eastridge, said the development team came together through a mix of selections and competitive bidding.

“They weren’t all picked. We started with ones that we wanted to understand these big projects early on,” Hallmark said, citing a competitive bid for design of the new arena that went to HOK, a Missouri-based architecture firm.

Clark Construction Group, based in Maryland, is the arena contractor, Hallmark said – a change from Gilbane, the arena contractor listed on the original Navy Hill proposal submitted to the city early last year.

“On the hotel, we went to Cooper Carry, out of D.C., who have a ton of hotel experience,” Hallmark said. “After that, we tried to look to local firms, so Baskervill, SMBW. On the contractor side, I think it’s the same kind of calculation we did on the architects for the big projects, to make sure we had general contractors who our bond buyers, for one, would have confidence in.”

Running the arena

SMG will manage the new arena. (NH District Corp.)

SMG, the suburban Philadelphia-based company that managed the Coliseum before it was shuttered earlier this year, was selected to operate the new arena – a selection that Hallmark said was another competitive process. SMG also manages Richmond’s Altria Theater, Dominion Energy Center and Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.

“We completed the operations of the arena nationally. Rather than just take business as usual, we reached out to the best operators in the nation. There was a tremendous deal of interest,” Hallmark said.

“One of the requirements we asked for was an actual investment in the building itself. That’s the deal we got, so our operator has a large investment in the project, which demonstrates how much they believe in the outcome of it.”

The new 17,500-seat arena would replace the Coliseum and anchor the Navy Hill redevelopment, which also calls for more than 2,000 market-rate apartments, 480 income-based housing units, a 541-room hotel, a renovated Blues Armory building with a food market and ballroom, a new GRTC transfer center, and new retail and office spaces.

The project also includes two new high-rise buildings planned south of Broad Street, including an apartment building with street-level retail at 401 E. Broad St. and a mixed-use development in the 600 block of East Grace Street.

Other out-of-town businesses on the development team include Texas-based Benchmark Global Hospitality, which would operate the hotel, and North Carolina-based Bell Partners, which would manage the apartments. Citi Group and JPMorgan Chase are providing bond financing for the arena and armory.

Conventions, Sports & Leisure International analyzed arena feasibility and market validation, HR&A Advisors provided mixed-use development analysis, and Municap provided TIF district revenue, public finance and tax revenue analysis. Design consultants include Henderson Engineering and Silman Associates, and NewTown Advisors provided parking consulting.

At Tuesday’s briefing, Concord Eastridge CEO Susan Eastridge put the cost thus far for predevelopment work such as designs and financials at about $20 million. The group later said that investment represents a combination of funds raised from Capital City Partners and private investors.

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