Proposals are in, and now it’s up to city officials to decide which development team Richmond will work with on its Diamond District redevelopment project.
Full proposals from the finalists that remain in contention for the 67-acre stadium-anchored project were due to the city by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Each of the three teams met that deadline, confirmed Maritza Pechin, the city’s Diamond District project manager.
Pechin said the proposals will now be reviewed by the project’s evaluation panel, which will make a recommendation to Mayor Levar Stoney. A final development agreement or contract would require City Council approval via a seven-vote supermajority.
Vying for the project 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; and Vision300 Partners, led by Freehold Capital Management with members including Brookfield Properties and Hourigan.
The panel’s review is to be based on evaluation criteria spelled out in the project’s solicitation documents. Criteria includes development team qualifications, experience with urban mixed-use projects, equitable development benefits, and project understanding and financing approach.
The development team selection is expected to be made in July and the project put to the City Council for approval this fall.
The same panel selected the finalists, which were narrowed down from a field of 15 respondents to the project’s initial solicitation late last year. The three remaining teams were then invited to submit full proposals in response to a formal request for offers that went out in May.
The winning team will work with the city to redevelop the largely city-owned site, which includes The Diamond and the VCU-owned Sports Backers Stadium. The 37-year-old Diamond has been deemed unfeasible for renovation and 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.
Bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard and Hermitage Road to the west and east, and by the interstate to the north and the train tracks to the south, the site has been floated for redevelopment in starts and stops for over a decade.
This latest effort is driven in large part by 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.
In preparing their submissions, the three teams were allowed to submit additional questions about the project. Those questions were posted, along with the city’s responses, on the city’s Diamond District webpage earlier this month.
A question from one of the teams stated its total development budget, including construction costs, would be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. The team behind each question is not identified in the document.
Also this month, at least one of the teams ramped up its public profile. Richmond Community Development Partners launched Facebook and Twitter accounts promoting its team members and their portfolios. Posts have included a two-minute video with interviews from several of the team’s members.
Among those featured in the video are Colin Robinson with Gilbane Building Co., Stewart Roberson of Moseley Architects, Megan Gough of VCU’s School of Urban Design, Augusta Hite of HandUp Resource Center, Charles Wilson of CW Consulting Group, Shawn Balon of Storefront for Community Design, and Jerome Legions of Carver Civic Association.
Machete Group’s David Carlock said such presence on social media is important for public outreach.
In an email, Carlock said, “Taking advantage of all the ways to engage with the community — so community members can get to know us and understand our vision and so we can hear from them — is really important. Social is one way for us to do that.”
In a statement Tuesday, the RVA Diamond Partners team said of its proposal: “It captures the essence of what makes Richmond a special place while maintaining the spirit of the Richmond 300 plan — and perhaps most importantly, limits financial risk to the City,” the team said in the statement.
“Our plan delivers an exceptional ballpark experience, the only proposal with a large park running throughout the site that’s open to the public, and creates an integrated, sustainable community that will become a gathering place for Richmonders to live, work and play for generations to come. We would like to thank the city and everyone on the evaluation panel for the opportunity to share our vision for this transformative project.”
BizSense also requested comment from Vision300 Partners for this story. Hourigan principal Mark Hourigan, who is co-leading that team, confirmed it had met the deadline but did not offer additional comment.
The evaluation panel reviewing the proposals consists of city and VCU officials, including:
- • 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.
Note: This story has been updated with comments from David Carlock received after publication.