Consultant finds Navy Hill project ‘in city’s favor’; council majority unmoved

A conceptual rendering of the buildings that would fill Navy Hill’s ‘Block D’, which would house VCU Health offices and facilities for two nonprofits. (Courtesy VCU Health)

A majority of Richmond City Council members maintained their opposition to the proposed Navy Hill development this week, despite a largely supportive report from a third-party consultant that council had hired to assess the project.

After reviewing the report at a committee meeting Monday, members voted 5-4 to recommend striking the project’s proposed ordinances from council’s next agenda, and to go through with their request for Mayor Levar Stoney to withdraw the entire proposal in favor of a new RFP process.

Click to view the report.

The ordinances, deferred for months in light of the third-party review, were set to come back to council at its next meeting Feb. 10. The recommendations from council’s Organizational Development Standing Committee are to be formally voted on at that meeting, while a final vote to decide the $1.5 billion project remains scheduled for council’s Feb. 24 meeting.

Stoney has said he will not withdraw the proposal, calling the request “laughable” and “irresponsible” in light of council’s insistence on a third-party review that ended up costing the city $215,000. Council first voted on the withdrawal request at its regular meeting last week, prior to receiving the report it commissioned from Chicago-based firm C.H. Johnson Consulting.

Council had been similarly divided in approving the consulting firm’s contract, with four members contending the report could be slanted because C.H. Johnson had once employed the founder of Hunden Strategic Partners, the Chicago-based consultant that Stoney’s administration had previously hired to review the project. Hunden’s findings supported Stoney’s initial endorsement of the project in 2018.

Strengths and weaknesses

In its report, to be formally presented to council next week, C.H. Johnson listed perceived strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats, of the project as proposed. It described the plan as written in the “city’s favor” in the event of a project default.

coliseum-aerial

A 7-acre plot houses the city-owned Coliseum. (BizSense file photo)

While the project calls for bonds to fund its centerpiece arena, which would replace the now-shuttered Richmond Coliseum, the report noted the proposed convention center hotel would be funded without a public subsidy, despite the center’s regional support structure. It also noted an opportunity for regional cooperation in the project, citing the convention center as a model.

On the strengths side, the report describes Navy Hill as a “thoroughly vetted development by various outside specialty consultants.” Weaknesses listed include a lack of a specific plan for the proposed GRTC transfer center or the city’s social services department, which eventually would be relocated to make way for new buildings.

Other weaknesses listed include a lack of an appraisal of city-owned land prior to the city’s request for proposals that produced the lone response from NH District Corp., the local group backing the project led by Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell.

Also listed among weaknesses are a lack of an organizational plan for NHDC’s nonprofit foundation, the percentage of income-based housing included in the proposal and the project’s proposed 80-block tax increment financing area. NHDC had said the TIF area could be reduced to 11 blocks with the passage of a state bill that would contribute a portion of state sales tax to the project. But that bill has since been tabled and effectively killed in the General Assembly.

Of the income-based housing, Stoney last month announced that enough units had been located within the project area to meet the city’s required percentage threshold for new multifamily residential development. He also has said that current funding levels for schools from the city’s tax base would be maintained throughout the project, including from properties in the TIF district.

VCU Health building detailed

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

As proposed, Navy Hill calls for the arena to be funded using $300 million in bonds that the city would pay over 30 years using real estate tax revenues from new development and increased assessments within the TIF district. The project would be kickstarted with $900 million in private investment that is projected to total $1.3 billion upon completion of the project.

The development agreement requires NHDC to show the $900 million has been secured before the city can pursue a bond sale to finance the arena, projected to cost $235 million and planned to be the largest in Virginia.

Spanning a 10-block area primarily north of Broad Street, Navy Hill would consist of a 17,500-seat arena, a 541-room Hyatt Regency hotel, 2,000 market-rate apartments, an initial 280 income-based housing units with potential for more, renovated Blues Armory building, GRTC transfer center, and additional retail, office and city-use buildings.

Last month, real estate data firm CoStar said it would fill one of the office buildings planned for Navy Hill, and Tuesday, VCU Health announced details for the block of buildings it has signed on to occupy along with nonprofits The Doorways, which would be relocated from beside the Blues Armory, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond.

An updated rendering of the now-taller office building planned beside the new arena, which CoStar is slated to fill. (Courtesy NH District Corp.)

The buildings that would rise in the block bordered by Ninth, Tenth, Leigh and Clay streets would be leased to VCU and the nonprofits, with NHDC retaining ownership to make the building taxable. The buildings would accommodate 250 offices to support the adjacent VCU Medical Center and outpatient pavilion, new facilities for the nonprofits, a retail pharmacy, retail and restaurant space, and more than 1,500 parking spaces, according to the announcement.

Deciding vote approaching

C.H. Johnson’s report warns that greater density would be needed with the loss of the TIF-reduction legislation, potentially lengthening the time frame for project absorption. It also notes other areas such as Hampton Roads and Norfolk are in early stages of planning redevelopment of their own aging venues.

If the arena was removed, which NHDC has said it would not do, the report projects that additional mixed-use development needed would slow the absorption rates for Navy Hill’s residential, office and retail components, resulting in a projected loss of $156 million in tax revenues.

The report goes on to question whether City Hall can handle a project the scope of Navy Hill, listing among weaknesses that the city “presently lacks capacity of appropriate oversight” of larger-scale projects. Navy Hill was cited among reasons for a new city policy rolled out in recent weeks allowing limited third-party permitting and inspections for larger projects.

In his State of the City address, Stoney said the project has and will continue to be tweaked to address such concerns, contending that community input has “made a good project even better for all of our residents.”

Mayor Levar Stoney delivering his State of the City address, which he closed out touting the Navy Hill plan. (Jonathan Spiers)

“Yet, after 26 months, some still doubt Richmond can do transformative things and fear Richmond will fail,” Stoney said, adding that he would not withdraw the proposal if requested.

Council members requesting the withdrawal include Kimberly Gray, Vice Chairman Chris Hilbert, Kristen Larson, Stephanie Lynch and Reva Trammel. President Cynthia Newbille, along with Andreas Addison, Michael Jones and Ellen Robertson, voted against the request.

At Monday’s committee meeting, Newbille defended the commission of a third-party consultant, indicating the results could spur further compromise.

Newbille said it was worthwhile “to have the opportunity to at least have a final report back from the independent consultant, to at least have an opportunity to look at the items that we submitted and could possibly consider negotiating to make this the kind of opportunity that we all say we want.”

“Short of there being a vote to bring it back at the council meeting on the 10th,” Newbille said, “that opportunity may be lost. Hopefully not.”

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
3 months ago

Regardless of one’s opinion of the current NH proposal, the developer deserves his day “in court” and the flexibility to refine the proposal to fit the city’s needs. NH answered the call for offers in a timely fashion, has spent millions in design and studies, and has shown its willingness to work within the city’s goals. The Council’s own consultant has given the proposal a tentative thumbs up. The 2% sales tax was an excellent idea, and the Council might consider an additional regional hotel tax to fund the arena. Our hotel tax falls far short of that in Charlotte… Read more »

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
3 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Don’t the Hornets play there?
With no major league sports, I don’t see how the arena makes economic sense for the city of Richmond, i don’t think its a good comparison..
This is not a binary choice, of the current Navy Hill plan or nothing.

James Gait
James Gait
3 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Ed,

Currently concerts bring in more revenue than either NHL or NBA games.

That is what the NH group plans to be the bread and butter of the coliseum.

Garry Whelan
Garry Whelan
3 months ago
Reply to  James Gait

Building the future success of the venue upon concerts is fragile to say the least. There are existing large venues in Norfolk, Charlottesville and DC, well established on the touring circuit. Richmond is a 3rd tier city for touring bands, a C List gig.
A new large venue might get some traction, but it won’t take much from the cities North, West and South of here.

Frank Smith
Frank Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Garry Whelan

The idea is to have the concerts here, not send them away to “…existing venues..” in other cities. That’s the whole point

Garry Whelan
Garry Whelan
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Smith

Those venues aren’t turning work away. They are established. I’m saying it is a gamble to base so much income on a new venue competing against existing venues who are doing just fine. There aren’t that many touring acts who can fill stadia on the road 52 weeks of the year, especially in the 3rd Division of cities.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
3 months ago
Reply to  Garry Whelan

Richmond I is a third tier city for concerts because it doesn’t have a venue. Sports teams tie up valuable concert dates that generate more revenue. Music is the key because concerts generate the income today, since music is streamed and so called album sales aren’t what they used to be. There will still be opportunities for sports, but they will be tournament related fixed dates booked years in advance like concerts.

Concerts also generate more hotel room nights than minor league sports teams where attendance is local.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
3 months ago
Reply to  James Gait

James;
don’t we have to compete with DC and the JPJ for those, adding excess capacity?
What is the heath of the JPJ and The Scope?
Are they turning down business?

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
3 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

The Scope is old and JPJ gets the concerts because Richmond doesn’t have a venue. It’s primary function is to support UVA athletics.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

There are (20,000 capacity) amphitheaters in Va Beach and NOVA who already have 15 or more concerts booked for 2020 (as of February) . Those are FAR more versatile, FAR more flexible, have FAR FAR more parking and are FAR cheaper to build, operate and maintain (no heat or AC) than an enclosed arena.

Most tours are scheduled during the warmer months so that they can play the outdoor venues- some as large as Scott Stadium or FedEx Field (capacity 85,000) . Even Nationals Park schedules summer concerts.

I’m curious if ANY enclosed arena can survive on concert events as their primary or secondary tenant.

John Harris
John Harris
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

Matt I couldn’t disagree more, as the current generation continues to elevate certain artists to such massive levels the arena concerts are thriving even more. But your argument is flawed at its core in attempt to paint a broad stroke. For example big acts like Billie Eilish, Drake, Post Malone and Taylor Swift still thrive off of stadium tours and unless at a festival venue, which Jiffy Lube or VA Beach will NEVER host, they aren’t playing outside in those locations. Also remind me the last time Scott had a big artist come through……I’d argue the outdoor scene is certainly… Read more »

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 months ago
Reply to  John Harris

John, you have many good points, John. I’m not even sure myself why stadium events were even mentioned in my post(and it appears that Scott Stadium has only had 4 shows: Dave Matthews, Rolling Stones, U2 and Concert for C’ville (in 2017)). I would only add that I’m neither for nor against a new arena. I only suggest that an arena justified primarily for musical acts seems destined to fail in my mind. I certainly hope I’m wrong on that one.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

Do not forget the other events such as WWE, Watchtower, monster trucks, circus (ya, gone now either way), etc. that we used to host and now draw Central Virginians elsewhere. We were able to build an arena when the metro had 1 /3 of the population it does now. Now with so many more people we sadly have lost this major amenity.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Justin, you got me thinking. As you know, there was virtually no TV coverage of many of these types of events when the Coliseum opened. (I remember opening day well, with live coverage on local TV). Cable was non-existent in this area, Do you think with today’s coverage of many of these type events, crowds would be larger, due to greater exposure, or smaller, due to so many more options? (as sports attendance seems to be dwindling across the board). I can see both arguments, just curious of your thoughts. Thanks

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

Matt, good discussion there. Some of these events, such as WWE, are more about having the opportunity to see what you watch live so probably more so there with greater exposure (not sure the state of WWE now compared to then though). Other events are simply see live only and not televised. For the rest, it may be a wash as now people are cutting cable and the exclusive coverage deals are excluding those viewers (great for sports bars). Given the attendance increase of the Flying Squirrels, we may have higher attendance now for sports events in an arena, if… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  John Harris

The last big concert Richmond had, Snoop Dogg closed out the Coliseum with his Puff, Puff, Pass tour.

Every administration official and navy Hill associate must have enjoyed it immensely because they act like they’ve been on something ever since!

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

Alright, I chuckled at that.

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
3 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

I have no expertise in concert promoting but with equal venues I would think Richmond with 1.3 million people in the Metro area would be more attractive than JPJ with 200K in their metro area. Yes some people do travel from out of town but not the majority. For those that do travel Richmond certainly has many more hotel rooms at a reasonable rate than you can find in Charlottesville.

Garry Whelan
Garry Whelan
3 months ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

It might compete with Charlottesville, but Norfolk and NOVA are still larger metro areas than Richmond, with concert venues of their own. Again, not saying concerts wouldn’t be part of the income for a successful venture in RVA, but not a large part as has been pitched.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Garry Whelan

Agreed, about NOVA/HR. Our market would be Central VA and points West. Especially with the upcoming new direct Amtrak service from Richmond to Western VA.

Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
3 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Yeah, besides the fact Charlotte has the a major league (not minor) basketball team playing in their arena they also have a city population of 810K compared to Richmond’s 220K. Their existing tax base to pay for such fancy amenities is much bigger and more stable. Some of the biggest complainers I’ve seen on this site and Richmond Times dispatch are people I’ve googled to see they live in Short Pump, Glen Allen, etc… They want Richmond City to subsidize the entertainment complex and the general construction industry while they sit in a different tax district and free ride on… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago

Says the commentator from Mechanicsville… Funny, most the people I have seen against it are suburbanites that hate the city anyway.

Just imagine what we could do if the city and surrounding county were combined (around 600k pop.) like Charlotte and every other city outside of Virginia (excluding Baltimore, St. Louis, Carson City).

Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

I’m not from Mechanicsville. I am in Church Hill, Richmond. I just have a common name.

One of the largest complainers in favor of the project on RTD is Derek Woolwine. That’s not a common name and he is definitely in Glen Allen.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Do all “suburbanites” “hate the city”? I must have missed the memo.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

Michelle, apologies neighbor, definitely fairly common.

Matt, never suggested all but that has certainly been a dynamic of the Richmond metro for some time. Our “regionalism” seems to consist of a us vs them attitude that should have died a solid decade ago.

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
3 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

The Council’s “own consultant” isn’t exactly an exemplar of seeing the future. Their examination of a similar development in Kansas City, MISSOURI (not Kansas) pointed to a rosy future full of tax revenue. That never happened. And this: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/development/2015/03/07/des-moines-convention-hotel-economic-impact/24525169/

Kevin Riley
Kevin Riley
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Crews

From the article, the key point in the report is it “…described the plan as written in the “city’s favor” in the event of a project default…”

Isn’t the biggest concern that the project will fail and the City will be left on the hook for the costs? If so, then I think the report addresses that concern. Let’s get it started.

Jeff Ensley
Jeff Ensley
3 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Riley

I’m not entirely opposed to this development as we desperately need an arena but the size of the TIF zone is concerning and the reason it is likely so large is so that it’s practically guaranteed a default never happens. It’s a shame we can’t work with our regional neighbors to get this done. Henrico and Chesterfield however are content to benefit from being near the City without having to pay anything for it.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Ensley

There was a state bill to allow a portion of the sales tax to go towards the area, therefore, reducing the TIF area. Given the amount of untaxed land the state occupies in the city, it would be nice if the city got a larger portion to begin with.

John Lindner
John Lindner
3 months ago

What’s that sound? The sound of a quarter of a million dollars going down the toilet?

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
3 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

Seriously, that is their own consultant that they vetted and hired and have now made a decision before their report was released. Not NH’s consultant, not Stoney’s consultant but theirs that they then don’t even bother hearing before making a decision. Who is doing the back door deals and wasting money now?

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

Blame Cynthia Newbille, Andreas Addison, Michael Jones, Ellen Robertson, and Stephanie Lynch for that. The other council members, all who are voting against Navy Hill also voted no to hire this consultant. Everyone except Michael Jones voted in favor of having the free, Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission report back to council. Cynthia Newbille unilaterally increased the consultant’s fee by $20K. The result? 30 days of effort and a SWOT analysis (I could craft one in 30 minutes from my knowledge of this project). The free, volunteer advisory commission report, a more thorough, well thought out, and independent analysis, had… Read more »

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
3 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

The council members who insisted on this expensive study, which then got a positive review, which those same members have now ignored, should personally bear the full cost of the review from their own pockets. If Richmond is really concerned about how their tax money is being spent, tax payers shouldn’t stand for such frivolous uses of their money. Those 5 members were hoping for confirmation bias on the report- they got the opposite of that, and now they’re pretending it doesn’t matter.

Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
3 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

So because 1/4 million dollars was spent on a study we must then spend 600 million on a project? That makes no sense.

This consultant that did the study has no credibility. They say all these projects put before them are great. They gave a ringing endorsement of Kansas City Power Plant Live and touted all these tax revenue it would generate to return on investment. Years later the revenue has come in less than 25% what this consultant claimed it would have by this point in time…

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago

Its called an “industry” for a reason. Self licking lollipops. Imagine if the were truthful and showed arenas and convention centers to be the net negatives to local governments they really are. They wouldn’t have a business model anymore, no more studies, no more wool to pull over anyone.

Kevin Riley
Kevin Riley
3 months ago

“…C.H. Johnson listed perceived strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats…” Based on this info, the City should be able to prepare a risk management plan for the program to mitigate and mange the risks. It sounds like both sides need to make some concessions to bring the plan to fruition but I don’t think throwing it out and starting it over is the solution. Doing so would probably result in nothing being done and Richmond losing out on great opportunity. Didn’t one of the opponents in the City Council state, “Don’t confuse me with the facts”…

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago

Time to hit the reset button. Over two years of secret meetings and handshakes and yet details are still trickling out 6 months after the deal went public. No one to blame but Stoney and NHDC for that.

Shady, shady, shady. Time to hit the reset button and make sure the planning process for Navy Hill has the sun shining on it the entire time.

Goodbye corporate giveaways. Goodbye secret backroom deals. Goodbye phony RFP processes. Richmonders know better and DEMAND better.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

If you have any idea how any large deal with many moving parts is done you know that there are often non-disclosure agreements on both sides of the negotiations. People like Co-Star and VCU may not have wanted their interest in the project to go public until a certain time (for any of a number of valid reasons) and Navy Hill or the City would have been bound not to talk about them until they were released to do so. Any deal of this size and complexity will have to have meetings (not saying every meeting, but some) that do… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

The folly in your statement is that when it comes to public money handouts driving the deal, you don’t get the fortune of negotiating things in secret.

NEED PUBLIC MONEY? = PUBLIC NEGOTIATIONS

When the sun shines, the cockroaches sure do scatter.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

Then do not ever expect private investment for public gain.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Maybe cities nationwide will stop competing against each other with corporate giveaways – novel i know, but companies might start actually paying taxes that would contribute to the services they use when there’s no municipality offering free land/no taxes anymore?

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

You do realize that the developers still had to pay for the land and pay taxes, right? The TIF was just designating those new taxes to pay for the city portion.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

You mean stealing the land at below market values? Developers would only be paying local taxes towards the arena debt until the arena becomes obsolete and suckers talk about the need for another one to pay for. Richmond has schools, utility infrastructure, and other historic facilities three times as old as the arena that are more important to operate and maintain. Dirty little secret here NHDC doesn’t want you to know: Navy Hill land is in an Opportunity Zone, meaning the developers would pay ZERO capital gains taxes on their property holdings and profits. This is why they (and Dominion)… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

Well, now we still get no tax money and we get to pay for the opportunity to watch the center of the city crumble while city council continues to sit on their hands, as they do best.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

A fighters perspective would be: We saved the general fund from a corporate raid and told our leaders to be strong and negotiate land and development deals that work for the health of the city’s finances, its residents, and what it really needs.

Defeatist, negative commentary about how Richmond has no other possibilities isn’t what the thoughtful, creative, and forward-thinking people of Richmond are saying or doing.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

It is not necessarily the intent to try and hide something, but if you have to advertise to the public every time you even talk to someone involved in a project like this it would take eons to get done. There is also the need of professionals on all sides to be able to assess proposals without being distracted and accosted by “public input” ie people yelling loudly. For instance, if the City get s a bunch of replies for an RFP staff should be given a certain amount of time to asses those proposals and ask clarifying questions of… Read more »

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

If you don’t want any “public money” being involved in the solicitation than don’t handcuff the developers by making them include things that obviously can’t stand on their own economic’s such as a GRTC transfers station, redoing the Blue’s Armory or including a large low income housing component. You can’t ask developers to build a 500 million dollar plus facility and throw in a couple of hundred million in other public “goodwill” projects. There is a reason only one company responded to the solicitation, if they put this out again there is no way they receive another response as a… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

Stoney set the RFP terms to include the Coliseum replacement all by himself.
Roger, your alternative proposal actually makes sense! 100% general fund revenues from development straight to the City budget to execute the priorities it actually needs and the public wants with no TIF scheme needed. Lets get started!

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

With what money? All of that was to be funded by the new tax revenue of the development. No development, no new money.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

The folly in your statement is that public money is needed for this project to happen. Public money doesn’t get to be played with in secret, backroom deals.
Want Public Money? You work in a public process – apologies – if that doesn’t work for some parties, perhaps they shouldn’t be involved…

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
3 months ago

Can we just put an end to this false narrative once and for all?!? The City did not ask for this. The Navy Hill Development proposal was drafted WELL before the City put out an RFP. The City catered their RFP to this drafted scheme. So just cut it out already and stop pushing the false narrative that we asked for this or that no other developer was interested. This has been documented for years, thank goodness for professional journalism, you can google these facts for yourselves. Also, there is truth and depth once you understand how the system works.… Read more »

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
3 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Wasn’t there at least one developer who came out and was upset about being shut out of the project?

John Lindner
John Lindner
3 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Richmond is definitely hot. But the notion that private development will do anything close to this is false. Why? For one thing, there are millions of dollars of infrastructure needed to make this happen. Just the cost of demolishing the colosseum and the social services building, restoring the street grid and bringing Leigh back up to street level will be tens of millions. Add in the GRTC transfer station, affordable housing and a historic renovation of the Blues Armory and you’ve got tens of millions more. These things aren’t likely to happen by private developers because no project can absorb… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

The city can issue $50M in bonds to restore utilities and the street grid to create developable parcels. When that is finished, Richmond can issue new RFPs (either for the entirety or individual blocks) for whatever we want to get built. If we, as a city, don’t like what’s proposed, we continue to hold onto the land and not settle for giveaways. If we do, sell it market rate and let the developer build what they proposed in the RFP response.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  John Lindner

John, the notion that private development will not see the land as attractive because millions of dollars are needed for infratructure is FALSE! Things cost millions everywhere now! Millions is not that much, especially when you conside that the current proposal is BILLION+! You do realize the magnitude of A BILLION, right? And weren’t NHD saying they are such great stewards of development because they are bringing MILLIONS to the table?!? Come on now, that is literally one of their arguing points – that they are bringing millions into this BILLION+ commitment. Secondly, you also realize that the current Navy… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Unfortunately Ashley, everyone who is in favor of this is simply going off “faith” and “feelings”.

Never have I seen actual concrete analysis, historic trends and examples, or rational numbers that can counter the arguments to vote against this project. NHDC has revised their revenue assumptions over 30 times already and everyone can still poke holes in this Swiss cheese sham!

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

The city portion was only $300 million (roughly equivalent to 6 months of RPS spending). The billion ($900 mil) was from private investment.

Unfortunately the State nixed the Leigh Street regrade.

The affordable housing was a bit disappointing but without the new housing in general rents are going to continue to skyrocket, pushing out those that need the affordable housing.

Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

$300 million bond requires $600 million in taxes to payoff.

Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
3 months ago

and construction of arenas/stadiums always go over budget by 20-30% everywhere across the country.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago

Potentially. The cost is still $300 mil plus interest payments over time. If we are going to inflate the initial cost in that manner (and ignore inflation which makes the $600 more like $450 today) then consider the private investment portion to be around $2 billion. We just declined $2 billion in private investment. Yay us!

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

$2B? Now you are inflating figures just like the rest of the NHDC crowd.

CH Johnson showed a purported revenue surplus of only $500M with Navy Hill over 30 years. Without an arena, Richmond SAVES that revenue and can activate the parcels with only $50M and have even MORE revenue.

Make America Think Harder (MATH)

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

I was simply making the point that the $600 million number is disingenuous. And sure, we could potentially spent a ton of money prepping the sites with the mere hope of future buyers (good luck after this). Unfortunately, those will be all private developments with no public benefit beyond some eventual tax income.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Tax revenues Richmond has 100% and complete control over at year year one to fund public benefit priorities? That is a far better deal than the scraps this disaster is. Opportunity fund land will have developers clawing at Richmond to negotiate – just not the developers who have wasted everyone’s time the past 3 years. In this scenario, who cares if the public benefits aren’t geographically located in Navy Hill? No one is there now. Once Navy Hill is developed the citizens way, the city can spread around Navy Hill generated revenues to create public benefits anywhere there’s a priority… Read more »

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
3 months ago

All of this is a result of Virginia’s archaic system of how it’s cities are isolated from the surrounding counties and lack of regionalism. A project of this magnitude and importance should have all localities in the metro area involved, but here in Virginia we are lucky if they even talk to each other. Twenty years from now the old coliseum will still be there just like the baseball stadium. To be known as the place that cannot get anything accomplished as a region. Richmond and Charlotte used to be compared as equal localities, not any more, Charlotte has left… Read more »

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Thomas

Well, if you want Chesterfield and Henrico involved, wouldn’t there be better places to build than downtown?

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Such as where? Downtown is the most connected, central location in the metro with access to regional transportation. The next best location would perhaps be the Boulevard but that means redundant services while downtown allows everything to work in conjunction with the Convention Center and Capitol Complex.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

What’s regional about downtown’s transportation? No ones coming to a show using Amtrak. Locating near a highway interchange in Henrico or Chesterfield is just as adequate. NASCAR works totally fine at RIR.

Call your County Board members now and demand your arena! You just can’t live without it!

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

Really?! I, and many others, happen to use Amtrak now to go to shows in DC, of which we used to have in Richmond. That means people are taking money that would have stayed in Richmond and spending it elsewhere. Richmond should be pulling from all over Central Virginia, not just the Greater Richmond Metro. Amtrak is expanding connectivity through Richmond and especially from Richmond out to CVille, Lynchburg and Roanoke, all of which could reasonably travel here for events. NASCAR is a very unique event that certainly does not pull in transit users.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

So NASCAR is an exception and the 6,000 seat sports arena Henrico is planning to build at VCC is as well? VB Ampitheater also? PNC Arena excepted? JPJ not in the right place? Man…this is becoming a long list of exceptions within a 2 hour drive…

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Smith

Once again, sending business AWAY from Richmond. With 1.3 million people plus surrounding areas, that should be the case and that is the concern. JPJ only gets what it does due to our failure with the colosseum. VB amphitheatre is limited to concerts, but regardless, it can stand on its own in a metro of 1.7 million plus Tidewater NC. Notice how many more businesses are setting up shop in Raleigh… And Siegel Center is already larger than 6000 seats, but both venues are limited in scope. No one is doing anything close to what we had at the coliseum… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

RIR pulls many more events than just NASCAR. You might want to check out their schedule. Henrico is planning its own sports arena to host 150-180 events a year and will directly compete with anything Richmond would be trying to book and siphon off the developers projected events and attendance. You should research this very website for the info on this. Arena football, whose franchises average less than 5,000 in attendance, are inappropriate for a 17,000 seat Arena. The developers themselves are saying the Arena would average only 3 sell-out events annually – all events combined, it would have an… Read more »

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

People are not going to take Amtrak FROM DC to see a show in Richmond when they have their own arena already there. Sorry.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
3 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

With their complete lack of public transportation you can cross Chesterfield off the list. Henrico might have a site of two like the old azalea mall or the raceway, but if you have ever seen traffic for a race you know that even a fifth of that could be a pain in the butt. Va Center might be another option but don’t even know if Henrico would want that up there. Best place is along the Pulse line and there aren’t really any good candidates in Henrico along even an extended line.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 months ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

Also North of the city would unfair to Chesterfield and Tri-Cities while Western Henrico would be unfair to Eastern Henrico and counties East.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

You’re injecting fairness into this conversation while arguing Richmond taxpayers must foot $600M in debt for county residents pleasure? WOW

Allison Farmer
Allison Farmer
3 months ago

I am a Richmond resident and I was originally in favor of Navy Hill but I am now opposed. I don’t understand why the entire deal seems to hinge on the replacement of the coliseum. Downtown arenas are proven money pits. I hear intelligent, well-thought-out discussions regarding why we need the new development but the arguments eventually break down into silly frivolities over what Beyonce requires when she tours.