Capital Square, Hourigan among firms advancing in Diamond District bid

The 60-plus acres of the Diamond District are bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the interstate and the railroad tracks. (BizSense file images)

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 area that makes up the Diamond District includes the namesake baseball stadium and nearby Sports Backers Stadium.

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.

The 60-plus acres of the Diamond District are bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the interstate and the railroad tracks. (BizSense file images)

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 area that makes up the Diamond District includes the namesake baseball stadium and nearby Sports Backers Stadium.

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.

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Dr. Abe C. Gomez
Dr. Abe C. Gomez
2 months ago

I feel like City Councilmember Michael Jones doesn’t really know what he’s talking about when it comes to minority contractor participation. Contracts need to be awarded based on many factors including price, technical package, qualifications, and proven history of success with similar projects. Not based on race or gender. I know this is an unpopular opinion but the truth can hurt. If a developer or contractor is “placed” into position to oversee the development based on race and not qualification then the project will be a disaster and will end up costing tax payers more money and time in the… Read more »

Rick Bishop
Rick Bishop
2 months ago

Abe, totally agree.

Let the best qualified firm with the best proposal win. Race-based constraints may be viable and promoted for smaller, less important projects, but not one of this magnitude.

Peter James
Peter James
2 months ago
Reply to  Rick Bishop

100% agreed. This project is far too important to become a political football. Unfortunately, City Council has a long history of placing race-based constraints on city redevelopment projects and the results have not generally been in the economic best interests of the city at large.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones
2 months ago

They already know who they “want” just like the casino deal was set.

Jeff Stein
Jeff Stein
2 months ago

Agreed. Cherry picking suppliers based on factors other than past experience, price, and qualifications will only hurt the city successfully building out this huge opportunity. This is not the time, scope, nor location to be experimenting with tertiary contracting goals.

Ed Wren
Ed Wren
2 months ago

“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.” So they have been promising this since 2010 and now have 3 years to get it done. A bit of deadline if they can’t even get very far it seems in planning let alone who is going to do it. With that said if City Councilmember Michael Jones can’t handle this responsibility without basing it on gender and race then he needs to give it someone who can. The city… Read more »

Michael P Morgan-Dodson
Michael P Morgan-Dodson
2 months ago

Given the history of City Administration’s on development projects, the mess of just trying to get the funding out for the designs of the new George Wythe that shows the disfunction of the City Council, and the overall stadium replacement process that is pushing 25 years I just don’t see the Squirrels having a new stadium ready for opening day 2025 (more like ’26/’27 seasons). But hope springs internal. Parney for Mayor!

Brian Hutton
Brian Hutton
2 months ago

There are plenty of local groups that can make this work and keep the revenue local to help improve the city. But Mayor Stoned will have other considerations first.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
2 months ago

Jones is a joke of a council member. We can thank him for Rosies. And if anyone ever attends/listens to City Council meetings they would totally understand why I make this comment.

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
2 months ago

I for one can’t wait for this project to start, based solely on the comedy show that will play out. I predict – A – 1 (minimum) convicted felon(s) involved directly on the development team. B – donation of public property/building to a private entity at a 0.1% tax assessment value C – extension of the Redskins (it’s their name) training camp for 10 years, at a cost of the taxpayers for $20m in return for free paint for team colored parking lot lines at the new development D – complete lack of focus on school or road repair elsewhere… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Fred Squire