The City of Richmond has made its pick in its months-long search for a development team to guide its Diamond District redevelopment.
The city announced Monday it is going with RVA Diamond Partners, led by D.C.-based Republic Properties Corp., Richmond-based developer Thalhimer Realty Partners (TRP) and Chicago-based investment bank Loop Capital.
The group was picked over Richmond Community Development Partners, led by Houston-based Machete Group, JMA Ventures out of San Francisco and New York-based Tryline Capital.
The selection tees up the long-anticipated development of the 67-acre, largely city-owned site that includes The Diamond, which is to be replaced with a new 10,000-capacity stadium. The rest of the land would be filled with a mix of office, residential and retail development, including a hotel and infrastructure upgrades.
It also draws to a close a nearly yearlong process that narrowed a field of prospective teams from 15 to two. Last month, the project’s evaluation panel eliminated a third finalist, Vision300 Partners, led by Boston-based Freehold Capital Management with members including Brookfield Properties and Hourigan.
With its development team selected, next steps in the process include final project approval by the nine-member City Council, with a seven-vote supermajority required. That vote is expected later this year, with the goal of work starting on the new stadium early next year.
The city is aiming to deliver the new stadium by the start of the 2025 baseball season, the deadline set by Major League Baseball for all pro venues to meet new facility standards. The larger development is projected for completion over a 15-year period.
Republic Properties Corp., based in D.C., has developed mixed-use projects there including Washington Harbour on the Georgetown waterfront, Georgetown Park, Market Square and The Portals.
It’s working with TRP, which has made investments in recent years in areas around The Diamond, and Loop Capital, a Chicago-based investment bank that’s involved in the redevelopment of the Oakland Coliseum site in California and new terminals at LaGuardia Airport and JFK Airport in New York.
The city’s announcement included a comment from TRP’s Jason Guillot, who said the team “is thrilled to be selected to develop the Diamond District.”
“Our plan features an exciting new ballpark for the Flying Squirrels and VCU, an 11-acre public park and an overall vision that creates a dynamic and inclusive mixed-use urban community,” Guillot said. “Our plan provides important community benefits for all Richmond residents while serving as an iconic gateway for visitors to our great city.”
DLR Group and JMI Sports are the team’s stadium designer and development consultant, respectively. DLR’s minor-league baseball credits include Fluor Field stadium in Greenville, South Carolina, while JMI worked on Chase Center in San Francisco and Petco Park, home to Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres.
Plan includes 11-acre park, income-based housing
Guillot has said the team’s proposal would follow the city’s recommendation of locating a new stadium along Arthur Ashe Boulevard just south of The Diamond, to allow the Richmond Flying Squirrels to continue playing ball while working to meet the 2025 season deadline.
The plan also includes components in keeping with the vision of the Richmond 300 master plan, including an 11-acre public park, minority business participation and a mix of housing styles and price and rental ranges.
Twenty percent of rental units would be targeted to households earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income, with at least 100 units reserved for renters with project-based vouchers. Twenty percent of homeownership units would be priced for households earning between 60 and 70 percent of AMI.
The team’s project involves a tax increment financing district, or TIF, that Guillot said would be restricted to the 67 acres that make up the project area. TIF districts are an option that local governments can use to help pay for a project using tax revenues generated over time.
The team had also pledged to forego any operating profits from the new stadium, and the city’s announcement said the team has commited to purchase the first $20 million of bonds to finance the new stadium, which is expected to cost about $80 million and fill 7 to 10 acres of the site.
The new stadium would seat 8,000 with space for 2,000 standing-room patrons. The 37-year-old Diamond, which has been deemed obsolete and unsuitable for renovation, currently seats about 9,500, with attendance for Flying Squirrels games averaging over 6,000.
The VCU-owned Sports Backers Stadium would be functionally replaced, along with the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center, by VCU’s planned athletic village complex across Hermitage Road.
The team’s proposal also included a workforce development center that would be located in Southside. The city’s announcement said the team would work with Richmond Public Schools to develop a technical training center at the former Altria site at Maury Street and Richmond Highway to create a workforce to support the development.
More than half of RVA Diamond Partners’ members are minority- or woman-owned businesses, according to the team. Minority business involvement was encouraged in the city’s solicitation for the project.
The team’s lead architect is New York-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Other design firms on the team include Nelson Byrd Woltz, a landscape architecture firm out of Charlottesville; placemaking firm Groundswell Design Group, out of Philadelphia; Richmond-area firms Poole & Poole Architecture, KEI Architects and 510 Architects; and Hickok Cole, which has an office in Richmond.
The team’s hotel developer is Maryland-based Capstone Development. Its residential developers are Philadelphia-based Pennrose, Maryland-based NixDev and Richmond-based Southside Community Development & Housing Corp. Contractors on the team include Breeden Construction, Emerge Construction Group, M Companies, Prestige Construction and Whiting-Turner, all locally based.
Rounding out the group is Richmond-based J&G Workforce Development and PR firm Capital Results; D.C.-based consulting firm Robert Bobb Group; Richmond visual artist Sir James Thornhill; and food-and-beverage consultants Shemicia Bowen, Kelli Lemon and Amy Wentz, co-founders of Richmond Black Restaurant Experience.
A public meeting on the project and selection process is scheduled Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Bon Secours Training Center at 2401 W. Leigh St. The meeting will be livestreamed. A telephone town hall also is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. Participation instructions and more information are available on the project’s website.