Note: This story has been updated with the six teams that were announced after publication.
Nine teams have struck out and six remain on deck to take a swing at Richmond’s Diamond District redevelopment project.
City officials this morning announced six teams that will move on to a next phase in the process to select a developer for the mixed-use project that would include a replacement of The Diamond baseball stadium.
The six teams are Diamond District Gateway Partners, MAG Partners, Richmond Community Development Partners, RVA Diamond Partners, Vision300 Partners LLC, and Weller Development Co. and LMXD.
Those teams will be asked to provide additional information on what they envision for the project, and how they would pull it off, with details due back to the city by April 25.
An evaluation panel would then select a shortlist of finalists, who would be invited to submit proposals by early June. A final selection is targeted later that month.
The panel selected the six teams among 15 that responded last month to the city’s request for interest in the project. Where that request sought info about the teams and their qualifications, this next request is for their concepts and plans, projected financing and operating revenue, economic impact, and anticipated community benefits.
The city has not identified the teams beyond their respective names, but here is what’s known about the six that remain:
Diamond District Gateway Partners consists of local real estate investment firm Capital Square, D.C.-based developers Dantes Partners and Hoffman & Associates, Maryland-based real estate firm The Velocity Cos., local architecture firm Baskervill and Missouri-based architecture firm Pendulum.
MAG Partners is a New York City-based developer.
Team members are not known for Richmond Community Development Partners and RVA Diamond Partners.
Vision300 Partners LLC is a Richmond-based team that includes locally based staffing firm Astyra Corp., housing nonprofit Better Housing Coalition, construction firm Canterbury Enterprises, building firm Hourigan, Metropolitan Business League, Shamin Hotels, developer Spy Rock Real Estate Group, and YMCA of Greater Richmond.
Weller Development Co. and LMXD consists of Weller, a Baltimore-based developer, and LMXD, affiliated with New York-based L+M Development Partners.
More response than expected
Project manager Maritza Pechin previewed today’s announcement in a presentation yesterday to the Richmond City Council’s Land Use, Housing and Transportation Standing Committee. She said the request for more info was added to the process due to the amount of interest received, which she said exceeded expectations.
“That’s more than we were anticipating,” Pechin said of the 15 responses. “We knew it was a very good site, and we’re thrilled with the response that we got. It’s just more than we expected.”
The city is seeking a team that would drive the development of the 67-acre site that includes The Diamond and other city-owned land, as well as the VCU-owned Sports Backers Stadium, which would be functionally relocated along with the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center.
The effort follows prior attempts to market the site for redevelopment, driven in large part now by a looming deadline for the Richmond Flying Squirrels to play in a stadium compliant with new facility standards that were implemented for professional baseball last year.
The local Double-A club, which has been promised a new ballpark since its arrival in 2010, has until the start of the 2025 season to comply with the new rules. The Diamond District project calls for a new, 10,000-capacity stadium, because renovating the 37-year-old Diamond to meet the new standards has been deemed unfeasible.
The city envisions the new stadium would be built first on grassy land along Arthur Ashe Boulevard south of The Diamond site, though officials have said they’re open to suggestions for other locations within the project area.
The rest of the project would include a mix of development including office, residential, retail and a hotel, as well as upgrades to infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads. The residential component would consist of rental and for-sale homes that would include some units targeted to lower-income households.
Pechin said the residential component now includes an additional requirement that at least 5 percent of the rental housing units be set aside for relocation of residents of Gilpin Court, a public housing complex that’s slated for revitalization along the lines of what’s happening at Creighton Court.
City Councilmember Michael Jones, who attended the meeting virtually while on a mission trip in Zambia, asked why that percentage was set at 5 percent and if it could be increased. Pechin said the percentage was selected in light of restrictions on how many project-based housing vouchers can be relocated from one census tract to another, as well as the mix of housing types desired.
Jones added that he hopes the overall project can be awarded to a minority-owned business, contending that such businesses do not get a fair shot when responding to city-issued requests for proposals.
“My concern is, when we put out RFPs like this, it comes down to who has previous relationships with established suppliers,” Jones said, adding that such relationships can result in better quotes given on what amounts to the same project.
“That is an uneven playing field,” Jones said.
A couple hours before the meeting, the city announced it had hired a firm to conduct a disparity study of Richmond’s programs for minority business enterprises, “to determine whether a significant gap exists between the number of MBEs that are qualified to perform and the number of MBEs engaged by the city or its prime contractors.” Florida-based MGT Consulting will conduct the study.
Jones added that the Diamond District project should go to a locally based or Virginia-based business, and asked if stipulations could be added to the selection process.
Pechin replied that the selection criteria laid out in the initial solicitation addresses diversity and community benefit requirements, as well as desired opportunities for minority business development and contracting.