When The Diamond is replaced with a new baseball stadium, it won’t be part of a planned VCU athletic complex on the site of the current Virginia ABC headquarters.
That is, at least, if city planners have their way.
The draft Richmond 300 plan, a years-in-the-making update to the city’s master land-use plan, envisions The Diamond’s replacement remaining on the west side of Hermitage Road, generally across from the ABC site where VCU is planning an athletic village complex.
Discussions up to this point have suggested that the complex would include a new stadium that VCU would share with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, freeing up The Diamond to be demolished to make way for new development along Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
But in a presentation Thursday on one part of the draft plan – an area that city planners refer to as “Greater Scott’s Addition” – Mark Olinger, the city’s director of planning and development review, said recent discussions made clear that the athletics village would not be able to accommodate a baseball stadium.
Olinger, who has been leading the Richmond 300 effort, said VCU’s plans for the complex, which would include indoor and outdoor tennis courts and other sports facilities, “became very difficult for the ball diamond to fit into and make all of the other items work.” In light of that, the plan now envisions the new stadium to be built among mixed-use development on the west side of Hermitage.
Change of plan
A rendering presented Thursday and included in the plan shows the new stadium in the area of the existing Sports Backers Stadium, catty-corner from the ABC site and southwest of the intersection of Hermitage and Sherwood Avenue, which would be extended west to connect with Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
The new baseball stadium would bookend the northern end of what’s envisioned to be a crescent-shaped swath of green space that would bisect the area between the boulevard and Hermitage north of the railroad tracks. The open space would include a greenway with a bridge crossing the tracks, event and gathering areas, and park space stretching across Hermitage as far east as Allen Avenue.
Sports Backers Stadium, which VCU owns, is not shown in the rendering, though plans for the athletic village include a soccer stadium and track and field complex, among other facilities.
The area rendering was among several aspects of the plan presented in a virtual meeting Thursday – one of several public “summits” that city planners are using to roll out and highlight certain parts of the draft plan, which was released June 1.
Thursday’s summit focused on the area generally east of the boulevard and north of Broad Street, including The Diamond and other city-owned properties that make up a 60-acre site the city has long eyed for economic development.
Years in the making, the Richmond 300 plan – intended as a growth guide through the city’s tricentennial in 2037 – has as recently as February shown the new baseball stadium as part of the athletics village complex, with Sports Backers Stadium remaining as is.
With the baseball stadium now across the street, the latest version of the plan shows the athletics village filling the ABC site and additional acreage south of Sherwood that VCU purchased earlier this year. The state has given VCU first right of refusal on the ABC site as it relocates its headquarters to Hanover County.
The plan calls for high-density mixed-use development in the area of Ownby Lane and Overbrook Road, where such development is already underway. Planners likened that area’s potential to Scott’s Addition proper, where the plan also calls for a central neighborhood park.
The parking lot in front of the Children’s Museum of Richmond along Broad Street also is eyed to become a park, and discussions during Thursday’s presentation indicated that plans for the Arthur Ashe Athletics Center next to The Diamond now call for a conversion to a fieldhouse that would be opened to public use.
Olinger emphasized the potential for the “Greater Scott’s Addition” area, more than half of which he said is considered underdeveloped. Decades from now, he said the city sees thousands of people residing in the area.
Using a baseball pun, Olinger said, “This is a home run area. It will take a while to get there from here, but we think we have the ability as we go through this process to put in place the building blocks, the framework, to have something that’s really transformational for this part of Richmond.”
Thursday’s presentation can be viewed here, and a video recording of the summit is available here. The full Richmond 300 draft can be viewed on the plan’s website, which includes details on future summits and recordings of previous presentations. Feedback on the plan is sought from the public through July 13.
Coliseum-area summit tonight
Next up in the plan’s rollout is a summit tonight on the downtown area, with a focus on the area around the Richmond Coliseum.
Planners are hoping for a lot of participation in that summit, as city administrators have described it as an opportunity for public input on what people envision for city-owned properties in that area. The city is conducting appraisals and preparing to declare those properties surplus ahead of a formal request for development proposals, of which the city has received two in the wake of the failed Navy Hill plan.
Details on Monday’s summit are available here. Additional summits are scheduled through the rest of the month, all starting at 6 p.m. Summits later this week focus on the Bellemeade and Bells Road areas along Route 1 (Tuesday), Southside Plaza (Wednesday) and Stony Point Fashion Park (Thursday).