Developers converge on The Diamond for pre-proposal site visit

Developers tour Diamond District in Richmond

Attendees at Wednesday’s site visit discuss the project with the Flying Squirrels’ Todd “Parney” Parnell, second from left, and VCU Athletics’ Ed McLaughlin, center. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

With less than a month remaining before submissions are due, prospective respondents to the city’s solicitation for interest in redeveloping its so-called Diamond District were invited to tour the site and surrounding area at an in-person event held Wednesday.

About 75 people converged on The Diamond for the site visit, which followed last week’s initial meeting on the city’s formal request for interest (RFI) for a ballpark-anchored mixed-use development that would replace the aging baseball stadium and fill the roughly 60 acres of primarily city-owned land around it.

Originally planned to be a bus tour, Wednesday’s gathering was changed to self-guided tours due to the recent surge in Omicron variant cases. Attendees were greeted with a presentation from city staff and given tour maps that guided them through nearby neighborhoods, via Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road and other connections.

In attendance were representatives from both local and out-of-town firms, including real estate developers, architects and engineers. Local faces among the crowd included Better Housing Coalition’s Greta Harris and Ashley Peace with Sauer Properties, which owns about 40 acres along Hermitage farther south.

Wednesday’s site visit was held on the grounds of The Diamond, which anchors the 60-acre Diamond District that the city’s seeking to redevelop.

Sharon Ebert, Richmond’s deputy chief administrative officer for economic and community development, said the tours were intended to help familiarize potential respondents with the area, particularly out-of-town firms considering the project.

Such firms represented in last week’s meeting hailed from as far as New York, San Francisco, Texas and Toronto, according to an attendance list provided by the city.

Leonard Sledge, the city’s economic development director, emphasized the site’s central location along the East Coast and immediate access to Interstate 95 at its crossroads with I-64.

“This is the best redevelopment site along the eastern seaboard,” Sledge said. “You’re right in the middle of the I-95 spine that goes from Maine to Florida, within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population.”

Richmond Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge provided an overview of the project.

Pointing to the interstate that runs along the northern edge of the property, Sledge added, “I think that’s a great site for a Class A, LEED-certified headquarters tower. That’s my dream for that site.”

The city is seeking proposals that include a replacement of The Diamond with a 10,000-capacity stadium built to current standards, infrastructure improvements, a hotel, and uses including retail, residential and office.

Noting last month’s announcement that commercial real estate data giant CoStar will expand its office complex along the riverfront, Sledge told the crowd, “We think there’s a tremendous opportunity for additional Class A office development to anchor in this part of the city as well.”

“We believe that this is an underutilized piece of real estate. We want to see it redeveloped in a smart manner, but also in a manner that represents the highest and best use for this redevelopment site,” he said. “It will create a revenue opportunity for the City of Richmond so that we can continue to provide services that are needed for our citizens, and also an opportunity to help keep our taxes low.”

The 60-plus acres are bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the interstate and the railroad tracks.

Proposals also are expected to help the city relocate functions of the VCU-owned Sports Backers Stadium and the city-owned Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center, both of which would be demolished to make way for new development. A shared parking strategy is expected in the project, which should also integrate transit, bicycle and pedestrian access, Sledge said.

The city is also emphasizing opportunities for minority business development and contracting, and for proposals to minimize financial burdens on the city for the infrastructure work and the new stadium. The RFI suggests minimal impacts could be achieved through direct equity contributions, team stadium lease payments, sharing of stadium naming rights and other approaches.

One attendee asked if a single developer is preferred for the entire 60-acre site, or if proposals for parts of the site would be considered. Maritza Pechin, a deputy director in the city’s planning department who’s leading the RFI effort, said either approach would be given consideration.

“The developer does not have to take the whole site,” Pechin said. “We have in the RFI that we may select one developer or development teams depending on what kinds of submissions we receive in our evaluation process.”

A panel consisting of city staff, City Council members and VCU staff will evaluate the submissions, which are due Feb. 15. It then will compile a short list of firms to be invited to submit development proposals in April or May, with final selections to be made in the spring or summer.

Among those in attendance for Wednesday’s event were Todd “Parney” Parnell of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Ed McLaughlin of VCU Athletics, and City Councilmembers Kathleen Jordan and Ann-Frances Lambert, whose districts include or border the 60 acres.

Jordan and Lambert hosted a community meeting on the project for area residents and constituents Wednesday evening. The meeting was streamed online, and a recording is planned to be posted on the city’s website and YouTube channel.

Developers tour Diamond District in Richmond

Attendees at Wednesday’s site visit discuss the project with the Flying Squirrels’ Todd “Parney” Parnell, second from left, and VCU Athletics’ Ed McLaughlin, center. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

With less than a month remaining before submissions are due, prospective respondents to the city’s solicitation for interest in redeveloping its so-called Diamond District were invited to tour the site and surrounding area at an in-person event held Wednesday.

About 75 people converged on The Diamond for the site visit, which followed last week’s initial meeting on the city’s formal request for interest (RFI) for a ballpark-anchored mixed-use development that would replace the aging baseball stadium and fill the roughly 60 acres of primarily city-owned land around it.

Originally planned to be a bus tour, Wednesday’s gathering was changed to self-guided tours due to the recent surge in Omicron variant cases. Attendees were greeted with a presentation from city staff and given tour maps that guided them through nearby neighborhoods, via Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road and other connections.

In attendance were representatives from both local and out-of-town firms, including real estate developers, architects and engineers. Local faces among the crowd included Better Housing Coalition’s Greta Harris and Ashley Peace with Sauer Properties, which owns about 40 acres along Hermitage farther south.

Wednesday’s site visit was held on the grounds of The Diamond, which anchors the 60-acre Diamond District that the city’s seeking to redevelop.

Sharon Ebert, Richmond’s deputy chief administrative officer for economic and community development, said the tours were intended to help familiarize potential respondents with the area, particularly out-of-town firms considering the project.

Such firms represented in last week’s meeting hailed from as far as New York, San Francisco, Texas and Toronto, according to an attendance list provided by the city.

Leonard Sledge, the city’s economic development director, emphasized the site’s central location along the East Coast and immediate access to Interstate 95 at its crossroads with I-64.

“This is the best redevelopment site along the eastern seaboard,” Sledge said. “You’re right in the middle of the I-95 spine that goes from Maine to Florida, within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population.”

Richmond Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge provided an overview of the project.

Pointing to the interstate that runs along the northern edge of the property, Sledge added, “I think that’s a great site for a Class A, LEED-certified headquarters tower. That’s my dream for that site.”

The city is seeking proposals that include a replacement of The Diamond with a 10,000-capacity stadium built to current standards, infrastructure improvements, a hotel, and uses including retail, residential and office.

Noting last month’s announcement that commercial real estate data giant CoStar will expand its office complex along the riverfront, Sledge told the crowd, “We think there’s a tremendous opportunity for additional Class A office development to anchor in this part of the city as well.”

“We believe that this is an underutilized piece of real estate. We want to see it redeveloped in a smart manner, but also in a manner that represents the highest and best use for this redevelopment site,” he said. “It will create a revenue opportunity for the City of Richmond so that we can continue to provide services that are needed for our citizens, and also an opportunity to help keep our taxes low.”

The 60-plus acres are bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the interstate and the railroad tracks.

Proposals also are expected to help the city relocate functions of the VCU-owned Sports Backers Stadium and the city-owned Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center, both of which would be demolished to make way for new development. A shared parking strategy is expected in the project, which should also integrate transit, bicycle and pedestrian access, Sledge said.

The city is also emphasizing opportunities for minority business development and contracting, and for proposals to minimize financial burdens on the city for the infrastructure work and the new stadium. The RFI suggests minimal impacts could be achieved through direct equity contributions, team stadium lease payments, sharing of stadium naming rights and other approaches.

One attendee asked if a single developer is preferred for the entire 60-acre site, or if proposals for parts of the site would be considered. Maritza Pechin, a deputy director in the city’s planning department who’s leading the RFI effort, said either approach would be given consideration.

“The developer does not have to take the whole site,” Pechin said. “We have in the RFI that we may select one developer or development teams depending on what kinds of submissions we receive in our evaluation process.”

A panel consisting of city staff, City Council members and VCU staff will evaluate the submissions, which are due Feb. 15. It then will compile a short list of firms to be invited to submit development proposals in April or May, with final selections to be made in the spring or summer.

Among those in attendance for Wednesday’s event were Todd “Parney” Parnell of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Ed McLaughlin of VCU Athletics, and City Councilmembers Kathleen Jordan and Ann-Frances Lambert, whose districts include or border the 60 acres.

Jordan and Lambert hosted a community meeting on the project for area residents and constituents Wednesday evening. The meeting was streamed online, and a recording is planned to be posted on the city’s website and YouTube channel.

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SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
5 months ago

In the photo I see four (out of five) adults “masked-up” (or semi-, in one case). Setting aside that every controlled study shows masks are useless against Covid, these guys are outdoors, in the sunlight! I wouldn’t trust this group to plan my child’s birthday party.

Peter James
Peter James
5 months ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

Excuse me – but exactly WHAT does this kind of pointless drek have to do with anything, much less the topic at hand? The focus of the meeting and of the RBS coverage thereof is the future economic development of Greater Scott’s Addition/the “Diamond District” including the new ballpark for the Squirrels. Please don’t waste our time or waste this space with such off-point political/cultural agenda-driven garbage commentary.

What a complete, total, and utter non sequitur.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
5 months ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

I respectfully suggest anyone incapable of planning their own child’s birthday party has bigger issues to worry about.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
5 months ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

Always be careful when you are pointing out that the Emperor is naked…

Here’s the deal: these people are most likely smart enough to know the things you are saying — but they also are, like most businessmen, not wanting to get into any stupid political conversations with those who are not — not good for business, esp in a place like Richmond.

Brina Robinson
Brina Robinson
5 months ago

The entire Richmond City Council needs to be fired…useless. The traffic is horrible on Broad St with the removal of third lane of traffic for a bus lane a few years ago. Also, converted bike lanes on Brook Rd was a bad idea and made two lane traffic just one. The council need to rethink how make that better instead of being concerned about a casino and the Diamond. Fix the mess with roads traffic that was created

Randall Hudgins
Randall Hudgins
5 months ago

Is anything planned for the Uhaul/Greyhound hellscape across the street? Seems like a lot of space to put a smart, walkable mixed-use development – restaurants, shops, offices, with residential above – that also incorporates some park or congregating space for when games are playing.

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
5 months ago

I seem to remember something about tying it all together: Greyhound, Amtrack, Pulse – in one transportation hub. That may have been a dream I had, but…

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
5 months ago

Seems to me that Richmond is popping enough that all the things that people have LONG been saying about the pluses of the location are finally being considered and all the drawbacks of the strings that Richmond’s political leaders and special interests are not enough for developers to say “uh,…. no.” It certainly WOULD be nice to have something tall and beautiful visible from 95 for once — has always seemed like a great op for a marque HQ — a stunning bldg would really stand out — and could help further development, since developers are usually only as “visionary”… Read more »

Will Willis
Will Willis
4 months ago

I hope they take queues from the Green City development in Henrico on Sustainable, Eco Friendly, Genergy producing.