Surplus proposal for Navy Hill properties delayed again as input expected on Coliseum area plan

Four of the city-owned properties set to be declared surplus, clockwise from top left: the Public Safety Building at Ninth and Leigh streets; the parking lot at 609 E. Grace St.; the Theatre Row Building on Broad Street; the Coliseum. (BizSense file and submitted photos)

A proposed surplus designation that’s needed before Richmond City Council can entertain new development proposals for properties once tied to Navy Hill will have to wait at least another two weeks.

Council on Monday delayed consideration of the designation until its next regular meeting on June 22, by which time the city expects to receive more input from the public on what it envisions for the properties in a previously scheduled community meeting.

That meeting is part of a weeks-long unveiling of the draft Richmond 300 update to the city’s master land use plan. It will focus specifically on the area around the Richmond Coliseum, much of which consists of the city-owned properties that administrators want to declare surplus. The virtual meeting is to be held online next Monday, June 15, at 6 p.m.

The surplus designation had been put on council’s agenda to amend a previous proposal to remove one parcel from the group: the Public Safety Building property at 500 N. 10th St., which is the focus of one of two development offers the city has received since Navy Hill.

Councilmember Kristen Larson, who was among those who voted against Navy Hill, balked at the proposal being up for consideration, contending that doing so was not in the city’s best interest and went against the public process that the majority had requested in a resolution in January.

Larson was supported by Kim Gray, who said a vote ahead of public engagement “goes against everything about being transparent.”

In a presentation later on the two development offers received, Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge mentioned the Richmond 300 meeting on June 15 as an opportunity to receive public input on the properties.

Council members had called for a small area plan for the Coliseum area to be developed as part of the Richmond 300 update, along with appraisals that are underway. Those steps, along with the surplus designation, are needed before council would go forward with a formal request for proposals, or RFP, that would allow consideration of the offers received while soliciting more proposals.

Sledge said the received offers – from Capital City Partners and Douglas Development Corp. – would be presented in the June 15 meeting, noting time lost in the RFP process due to the coronavirus pandemic. Larson said they should be kept separate, so as not to push the discussion in a particular direction.

“I just want it to be a good transparent meeting where we’re soliciting input about that area and we’re not focused on one proposal or another,” Larson said. “That was the intent of having that in that resolution.”

Sledge said the offers would be “the elephant in the room” if they aren’t presented as part of the discussion of that area. He said the city is just acknowledging the interest that it has received and would not be bound to accepting either offer.

Capital City Partners, the development team that was enlisted for Navy Hill, wants to buy the 3-acre Public Safety Building parcel and redevelop it with a $350 million mixed-use office complex, highlighted with a 20-story tower that VCU Health would lease.

Douglas Development wants to purchase nearly 15 acres of the Navy Hill area for a mixed-use development that would include a refurbished Coliseum and residential, office, retail and hotel uses.

Sledge noted the latter offer expired last month, though Douglas Development principal Douglas Jemal has said he would be open to extending it. Sledge said the city never received additional information requested from Douglas since receiving the offer in late February.

Beyond the Public Safety Building, the city-owned properties proposed to be deemed surplus include the Coliseum, a parking lot across Clay Street from the John Marshall Courts Building, and two city-owned sites south of Broad Street that were initially part of Navy Hill but later removed: a parking lot at 401 E. Broad St. and the bulk of the city block at 609 E. Grace St.

Also included in the mix is the Theatre Row Building at 730 E. Broad St., the only property involved that was not tied to Navy Hill. The 10-story, 166,000-square-foot office building houses the city’s Richmond Gas Works public utilities department, as well as space used by VCU’s School of Medicine.

Manchester-area requests approved

The River’s Edge II apartment project facing the James River.

In other business Monday, council granted a special use permit for River’s Edge II, a nearly 350-unit apartment complex set to rise at 310 W. Sixth St. in Manchester.

The permit was granted a week after the city’s Planning Commission recommended approval for the $75 million project, from local developer Guy Blundon and Mark Purcell of Purcell Construction. They’re aiming to break ground on the twin-tower project by the end of the year.

Council also approved a rezoning of 4 acres of land at 400, 401 and 418 Maury St. to TOD-1, or transit-oriented nodal district, which allows for up to 12 stories.

The vacant land is owned by local father-son developer duo Ed and Christian Shield. No plans of development have been filed for the land at this time, and reached Monday, Ed said the rezoning was a preemptive measure.

“We’ll probably do something in the future, but have no plans at this time,” Shields said. “We don’t have a timeline at this point. Eventually we’ll decide what’s an appropriate time to do something.”

BizSense reporter Mike Platania contributed to this report.

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