The pandemic’s ebbs and flows and related economic fallout are the obvious topics that should top this sort of list.
But we’ll use this space to try to look a bit beyond the immediately obvious, since we’ve learned by now that life in the Richmond economy does and will go on with or without COVID.
Here it is, our annual list of things to watch for in the local business scene in 2022 (with a heavy focus on development):
The Diamond District
The City of Richmond waited until nearly the last minute of 2021 to formally begin the process of redeveloping the 60 acres around The Diamond and replace the aging baseball stadium. By February, initial proposals will be submitted and the winning development plan is expected to be chosen before year’s end. A lot hinges on the outcome — the Richmond Flying Squirrels anxiously await a new home and the development that will rise around the anchor-stadium will amount to a new neighborhood in Richmond.
Henrico County also has a new neighborhood of sorts in the works in GreenCity, the arena-anchored proposal from the developers of the failed Navy Hill plan. Further steps toward realizing the $1 billion project will likely be made this year, including a changing of hands of much of the needed land.
Speaking of Navy Hill, progress is likely to occur toward reimagining (once again) the land under and around the Richmond Coliseum, now dubbed City Center. We know a new arena isn’t in store for the 10-block area, but a new convention center hotel and mixed-use buildings with height are the likely outcome.
Spring Rock Green
Chesterfield County has some big things in store as well, including its plans to help push along a redevelopment of the Spring Rock Green shopping center. The most recent news out of the county for the site was an idea for a massive ice hockey venue. Will that effort heat up in 2022?
The other big ticket item up in the air for the region is a casino. Richmond residents voted the idea down in November’s election, but now Petersburg has said it wants to pick up where Richmond left off. The ball is now in the court of Del. Joe Morrisey, who’s said he’ll push to have legislation introduced in the General Assembly to allow for a casino referendum in Petersburg. Will Petersburg residents be less divided on the matter?
The General Assembly and a new governor’s administration are likely to further influence the direction of the state’s burgeoning marijuana industry. Some speculate the Republican-heavy new wave may look to slow down the growth of the industry. Others say a businessman-as-governor will leave untouched what’s already in place. In that case, the path toward recreational adult use will be here before we know. It will be interesting to watch as players continue to position themselves to capitalize.
Douglas and the Arts District
Some claim well-known Washington, D.C.-based Douglas Development has held much of the Arts District hostage by not doing anything with its myriad holdings in the neighborhood. Might this be the year the company makes a move? Is Douglas waiting to see what happens with the Coliseum and City Center area? If it is, it could have a domino effect on surrounding blocks.
Another sizable proposal already fielding suitors is the potential redevelopment of the Broad Street campus of Genworth Financial, a prime 45-acre assemblage that Henrico County would love to see become a mixed-use hub between Short Pump and downtown. Formal requests for proposals are likely to be called for at some point this year.
Manchester grocery store?
This topic has probably been on this list in years past. That’s telling because it means the neighborhood has yet to get the grocery store than many say is sorely needed. At this point the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood is starting to feel like it simply will continue to mature as it has been and residents will continue to go elsewhere for their groceries. But you never know, maybe a developer or a grocer will step up to the plate with plans in 2022.
A new trial for Michael Hild?
Also hanging over Manchester and surrounding neighborhoods is the fate of Michael Hild. The embattled local businessman and major Southside property owner is likely to either receive a prison sentence or a new trial at some point this year as part of his criminal proceeding in Manhattan. The future of his numerous real estate holdings in Richmond may hang in the balance.
Stony Point Fashion Park
Elsewhere on the Southside, Stony Point Fashion Park has struggled to maintain tenants for years now and remains under control of a special servicer after its previous owner defaulted on a loan on the property. BizSense last reported about the mall being formally put up for sale and as of this writing there’s no update on where that listing stands. But the entity in the driver’s seat also recently won control of the previously city-owned parking lots surrounding the mall. That all bodes well for something to happen in the not-too-distant future.
There’s no indication that anything immediate will change with the empty plot that once held Dominion Energy’s old headquarters at 701 E. Cary St. One thing is certain: Dominion has said it will not build a second new office tower on the site. Could it become green space? Could it be sold to a developer?
Growth in Varina?
For years folks have speculated that the region’s growth will be forced to naturally migrate into Eastern Henrico and Varina. While it has yet to happen on any large scale — and Varina residents have a way of being heard when they don’t like something — at least one developer has something big in store for that part of the county in the industrial sector.
A big year for Shockoe Bottom?
The Bottom could become the most talked-about neighborhood of 2022, if several things play out. Perhaps the most pressing is the future of a potential slavery museum. At least some property owners are waiting to see what happens with that effort, which could unlock other ideas of how to transform surrounding blocks.
The urbanization of Innsbrook
Other than Manchester and Scott’s Addition, Innsbrook might have the most apartments on the drawing board than any other section of the region going into 2022. More proposals are almost sure to introduced this year.
CoStar on the riverfront
The real estate data giant made a splash at year’s end by announcing plans for 750,000 square feet of office space across two riverfront buildings, one of which will be the tallest in Richmond. The company has all the needed property in hand, so 2022 should be the year that formal plans are filed with the city.
CoStar’s plan is another example of the predicted pandemic-induced demise of traditional office space failing to materialize. Still, it’s interesting to ponder how the pandemic will continue to limit workers fully returning to in-person work. Parts of downtown Richmond still feel sleepy on normal weekdays.
Petersburg has another noteworthy decision to potentially make this year: how to push the owner of the decrepit former Radisson hotel to do something with the property or turn it over to the city before it falls into further disrepair.
Any other topics we missed here? Feel free to get the discussion going in the comments section.