City selects three finalists for Diamond District project

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

And then there were three.

The City of Richmond on Tuesday announced three finalists that it’s inviting to submit detailed proposals for the Diamond District redevelopment, which will transform the 67-acre site along Arthur Ashe Boulevard and add a new baseball stadium to replace The Diamond.

The three finalists are:

• Richmond Community Development Partners, led by Machete Group, JMA Ventures and Tryline Capital.

• RVA Diamond Partners, led by Republic Properties Corp., Thalhimer Realty Partners and Loop Capital.

• Vision300 Partners LLC, led by Freehold Capital Management with members including Brookfield Properties and Hourigan.

An evaluation panel consisting of city and VCU officials selected the finalists from among six teams that had been whittled down from 15 initial responses. Tuesday’s announcement said the latest selections were made based on each team’s design, program strength, community benefits and financing approaches.

The finalists will be asked to respond to a formal request for offers that’s to be issued May 30, with responses due back to the city June 28. The city anticipates announcing its preferred team and terms of the agreement in July.

A conceptual rendering of Richmond Community Development Partners’ proposal. (Images courtesy City of Richmond)

Conceptual plans and renderings that the three teams provided for illustrative purposes all propose placing the new stadium at the city’s preferred location: beside the boulevard and the CSX rail line in the project area’s southwest corner, with a pedestrian crossing connecting the site to the south side of the rail line at the Movieland at Boulevard Square property.

Other buildings in the development would primarily line the site’s borders along the boulevard, Hermitage Road and the interstate, with a pedestrian mall or linear park running through the middle of the site.

Renderings submitted by Richmond Community Development Partners show a 20-plus-story tower beside the new stadium and the rail line, as well as other tall buildings along the boulevard and north of the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center closer to the interstate.

RVA Diamond Partners’ conceptual rendering.

RVA Diamond Partners’ tallest building appears to be at the boulevard and the interstate at the site’s northern end. Vision300 Partners’ rendering shows similar density there, and its described concept calls for a new concert venue and a new YMCA branch.

Vision300 Partners’ conceptual plan.

Richmond is looking for one or more teams to collaborate with on redeveloping the largely city-owned site that’s been floated for redevelopment in starts and stops for over a decade. Driving this latest effort in large part is a deadline set by Major League Baseball for all pro baseball venues to meet new facility standards by the start of the 2025 season.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels has been promised a new ballpark since the Double-A club’s arrival in 2010.

Deemed unfeasible for renovation, the 37-year-old Diamond would be replaced with a new 10,000-capacity stadium that would anchor the larger mixed-use development. The city’s solicitation calls for office, residential, retail, a hotel and infrastructure upgrades. The residential component would consist of rental and for-sale homes targeted to a mix of income levels.

Plans from Richmond Community Development Partners, led by led by Machete Group, JMA Ventures and Tryline Capital.

Led by Houston-based Machete Group, San Francisco-based developer JMA Ventures and New York-based Tryline Capital, Richmond Community Development Partners includes housing developers Enterprise Community Partners and Gilbane Development Co.; hotel management and advisory firm Retro Hospitality and others, according to a team profile included with the city’s announcement. Tryline Capital’s involvement had not previously been mentioned in the group’s interview with BizSense last month.

RVA Diamond Partners, led by D.C.-based Republic Properties Corp., local developer Thalhimer Realty Partners and Chicago-based Loop Capital, includes residential developers Pennrose, NixDev and Southside Community Development & Housing Corp.; hotel developer Capstone Development; contractor M Companies; and stadium team DLR Group and JMI Sports, among others.

Vision300 Partners, led by Freehold Capital Management, includes mixed-use developer Brookfield Properties; housing nonprofit Better Housing Coalition; staffing and consulting firm Astyra Corp.; developers Greenstone Properties, KDC and Spy Rock Real Estate Group; hotel developer Shamin Hotels; contractors Hourigan and Canterbury Enterprises; and concert venue operator Live Nation, among others.

The three teams cut from consideration are Diamond District Gateway Partners, led by Capital Square, Dantes Partners, Hoffman & Associates and The Velocity Cos.; MAG Partners, led by its namesake development firm and MacFarlane Partners; and the Weller Development Co. and LMXD team.

Plans from RVA Diamond Partners, led by Republic Properties Corp., Thalhimer Realty
Partners and Loop Capital.

Mark Hourigan, whose namesake construction firm is on the Vision300 team, provided a comment in response to the city’s announcement.

“The Vision 300 Team is excited that the evaluation panel recognized the strength of this team of local business leaders that are knowledgeable about what Richmond needs along with partners that bring national perspective and financial strength,” Hourigan said in an email.

“We know there are more steps in the process, and we look forward to working with the City of Richmond over the next few weeks to share a vision that will benefit all of the citizens of Richmond and will transform the region.”

Plans from Vision300 Partners, led by RVA Diamond Partners, led by Freehold Capital Management with members including Brookfield Properties and Hourigan.

RVA Diamond Partners offered the following statement on its selection:

“RVA Diamond Partners has created a plan for a transformational urban village where people can live, work, enjoy the outdoors and have fun,” the statement said. “Our team of national and local experts will develop a place that captures and complements the vibrant and upbeat personality of Richmond through unique design elements, plentiful open spaces for residents to enjoy and a stadium that offers a full entertainment experience.”

Richmond Community Development Partners also responded to its selection, adding that its proposal includes “a reimagined and revitalized” Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center. The city’s solicitation had suggested the center’s uses be relocated from its current site.

“RCDP brings deep national experience on stadium design and stadium district financing, and construction coupled with dedicated local partners steeped in the history, traditions and culture of Richmond,” the team’s statement said.

“Our promise to design and deliver an inclusive neighborhood that becomes Richmond’s next great place is reinforced by our commitment to community engagement and working with all stakeholders to ensure the Diamond District maximizes its potential as a source of empowerment and opportunity.”

According to the announcement, the evaluation panel will select the winning project using project criteria and public input. More information about the process and proposals is available on the city’s Diamond District webpage, where the public can submit comments and questions.

A public meeting on the process and proposals is to be held in early June. Details for the meeting are to be posted on the site at a later date.

The city is aiming for the selection to be made in July. Final approval would be made by the nine-member City Council, with a seven-vote supermajority required.

The evaluation panel’s membership includes:

  • • James Duval, investment and debt portfolio manager with the city’s finance department;
  • • Sharon Ebert, city deputy chief administrative officer for planning and economic development;
  • • Karol Kain Gray, senior vice president and CFO of VCU;
  • • Katherine Jordan, City Councilmember, Second District;
  • • Ann-Frances Lambert, City Councilmember, Third District;
  • • Lincoln Saunders, city chief administrative officer;
  • • Leonard Sledge, city economic development director;
  • • Caprichia Smith Spellman, interim director, city office of community wealth building;
  • • Robert Steidel, city deputy CAO for operations; and
  • • Stephen Willoughby, city emergency communications director.

Advising the panel are Matthew Welch, a city policy advisor on planning and economic development; and Lynne Lancaster, deputy director with the city’s public works department. Maritza Pechin is the city’s project manager.

Note: This story has been updated with comments from the Richmond Community Development Partners team received after publication.

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Brett Themore
Brett Themore
9 days ago

All strong contenders. No architect/design partner listed for the Vision300 partners. Without a design partner to guide the project, I worry we’ll end up with a developer nondescript anywhere place, that is not Richmond, but some developers vision of Richmond all built a lowest cost/bidder scenario .

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
9 days ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

Good observation. But this is Richmond so who matters more than substance. What all three have in common is deep political ties to the Mayor of the City of Richmond.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
9 days ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

Apologies, the author neglected to list the Architect for this group. It can be found (HKS and Timmons) in the linked article. The others list the lead designer. Carry on.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
9 days ago
Will Willis
Will Willis
9 days ago

Gut reaction I’m going to have to go with Vision300 Partners LLC with the Richmond 300 master plan in the name and all those local big hitters. Shamin Hotels, Better Housing Coalition, Greater Richmond YMCA, Spy Rock and Hourigan. Almost a who’s who in the Richmond development scene. Will be interested to see the actual development proposals and plan.

John Gerencser
John Gerencser
9 days ago

Based on the drawings shown above, my first reaction is that the Richmond Community Development Partners proposal looks the best. The green through street offers a big city vibe with ample commercial space for cafes, restaurants, specialty stores. As always the devils lies in details and with the money.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
9 days ago
Reply to  John Gerencser

I agree. Richmond Community Development Partners has the best looking set of boards. Far better than vision300. It is visually (Design and graphics) weakest, it looks lazy and un-enthusiastic, almost like they feel they have it in the bag. Without the financial terms, development mix and standards of quality disclosed it’s hard to fully judge. Sadly, politics matter here. 

Will Willis
Will Willis
9 days ago
Reply to  John Gerencser

After seeing the boards I agree the Richmond Community Development Partners looks the best. Was very surprised how unappealing Vision300 Partners LLC looks based on the team they had. I do hope the final selection and proposals take as much advantage of vertical space as possible with several 12 story buildings or even a special permit to go above 12 stories would be nice.

Mark Ziegelhofer
Mark Ziegelhofer
8 days ago
Reply to  Will Willis

The Vision300 plan is definitely the least inspiring looks-wise. This intersection is potentially major gateway to Richmond and needs to look the part.

Joey perry
Joey perry
8 days ago
Reply to  Will Willis

I’m not developers outside of Richmond like Richmond community partners developer is based in Houston. Texas New York florida and California are the king states of developers with deep deep pockets. Richmond developers think they have deep pockets but compared to the rest of the country developers in Richmond are just small minnows in a big pond surrounded by big fish. I always laugh when Richmond developers think they are the best when developers in cities like Houston Dallas New York and so forth could top anything a Richmond developer does. Sadly Richmond is too political for the big boys… Read more »

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
8 days ago

Regardless of the plan of choice parking will be critical for the baseball stadium as well as residential units. The more high rise construction the greater the need will be for parking, as well as traffic circulation, with assorted delivery trucks, garbage removal and so forth. The developers have to be alert for “choke” points.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
8 days ago

The one element that we’re not privileged to in the article is how these proposals are financed. Is it public risk, private profit? Or will the developers take the responsibilities them selves for what they bring to the city? I assume a TIF is involved with each, parlaying future tax revenue to pay off public improvements with-in and around the project, and that’s okay provided a large geographic area surrounding this development if not tied up 30 years into the future. Pretty pictures can dazzle but I’m more concerned with public tax liabilities.

Malcolm Bates
Malcolm Bates
7 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Amen.

Will Willis
Will Willis
8 days ago

Just a thought with the new stadium going so far south against Arthur Ashe Boulevard and the railroad tracks I can see with the greenway bridge going over the tracks that someone buys part of the parking lot next to Bowtie theater and build a parking deck there for the stadium. Just a thought to make better use of the surface lot so close to the new stadium.

Will Willis
Will Willis
8 days ago

Also with this development, VCU athletic village and the others around it planned right now. Is there any movement on developing the Diamond Inn & Suites on Robin Hood and Hermitage, the old PET dairy plant on Robin Hood Rd and lastly doing something with the Quality Inn Central north of 95/64 on Arthur Ashe Blvd? Those I think are the last three main areas that have not had a redevelopment planned close by the Diamond District.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
7 days ago
Reply to  Will Willis

If any of these plans come into effect I’m sure all those sites will turn over