Unanimous council vote approves Diamond District development plan

Mayor Levar Stoney and City Council members were on hand for the Diamond District developer selection announcement held beside The Diamond earlier this month. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Any lingering resentments over past economic development decisions didn’t get in the way of the City Council finding unanimity in its approval of a developer for Richmond’s Diamond District project.

Councilmembers voted without dissent Monday to approve the administration’s pick of RVA Diamond Partners as the city’s development partner in the $2.4 billion project that starts with a new baseball stadium to replace The Diamond.

The approval includes the council’s endorsement of the minimum business terms agreed to for the project, including components of the development’s first phase and financing through a proposed community development authority using tax-increment financing.

While a majority approval seemed to be secured going into Monday’s meeting, the unanimous vote was uncertain and displayed a coming together among councilmembers who have been divided on past proposals.

Councilmember Katherine Jordan, whose district includes the Diamond District site, displays a baseball she found during the project’s kickoff event while giving remarks at the selection announcement.

In July, after an update on the project from city staff, Southside representatives Michael Jones and Reva Trammell bemoaned a lack of similar support among their peers for the failed Navy Hill plan and a proposed casino south of the river.

And when the city announced RVA Diamond Partners’ selection after a competitive process earlier this month, an accompanying release included endorsements from every council member except Trammell and Kristen Nye, whose district is also south of the river.

At Monday’s meeting, Nye said she didn’t like being asked to vote two weeks after the announcement. But in the end she supported the selection along with Jones and Trammell, who said the project’s benefits were too important to the city to vote against.

The 60-plus acres are bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the interstate and the railroad tracks.

The approval sets the stage for the city to collaborate with RVA Diamond Partners, led by D.C.-based Republic Properties Corp., Richmond-based developer Thalhimer Realty Partners and Chicago-based investment bank Loop Capital.

The public-private partnership will guide the 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 is to be filled with a mix of office, residential and retail development, including a hotel and infrastructure upgrades.

With the goal of work on it 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.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that a seven-vote supermajority was required for Monday’s approval. A supermajority will be required to approve the project’s definitive agreements including sale of land.

Mayor Levar Stoney and City Council members were on hand for the Diamond District developer selection announcement held beside The Diamond earlier this month. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Any lingering resentments over past economic development decisions didn’t get in the way of the City Council finding unanimity in its approval of a developer for Richmond’s Diamond District project.

Councilmembers voted without dissent Monday to approve the administration’s pick of RVA Diamond Partners as the city’s development partner in the $2.4 billion project that starts with a new baseball stadium to replace The Diamond.

The approval includes the council’s endorsement of the minimum business terms agreed to for the project, including components of the development’s first phase and financing through a proposed community development authority using tax-increment financing.

While a majority approval seemed to be secured going into Monday’s meeting, the unanimous vote was uncertain and displayed a coming together among councilmembers who have been divided on past proposals.

Councilmember Katherine Jordan, whose district includes the Diamond District site, displays a baseball she found during the project’s kickoff event while giving remarks at the selection announcement.

In July, after an update on the project from city staff, Southside representatives Michael Jones and Reva Trammell bemoaned a lack of similar support among their peers for the failed Navy Hill plan and a proposed casino south of the river.

And when the city announced RVA Diamond Partners’ selection after a competitive process earlier this month, an accompanying release included endorsements from every council member except Trammell and Kristen Nye, whose district is also south of the river.

At Monday’s meeting, Nye said she didn’t like being asked to vote two weeks after the announcement. But in the end she supported the selection along with Jones and Trammell, who said the project’s benefits were too important to the city to vote against.

The 60-plus acres are bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the interstate and the railroad tracks.

The approval sets the stage for the city to collaborate with RVA Diamond Partners, led by D.C.-based Republic Properties Corp., Richmond-based developer Thalhimer Realty Partners and Chicago-based investment bank Loop Capital.

The public-private partnership will guide the 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 is to be filled with a mix of office, residential and retail development, including a hotel and infrastructure upgrades.

With the goal of work on it 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.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that a seven-vote supermajority was required for Monday’s approval. A supermajority will be required to approve the project’s definitive agreements including sale of land.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
2 months ago

I’m happy the vote was unanimous. I hope the city departments are ready for the stream of plans soon to be submitted along with those from existing plans for development in every sector of the City.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
2 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

If I were a non-Diamond land owner I would get any plans in as soon as possible because once this stuff starts coming in I bet everything else will slow down.

Larry Murphy
Larry Murphy
2 months ago

Great collaborative “win” for the City! However it is going to put even more strain on the permitting process that is already broken. Has anyone measured how long it takes to obtain a simple building permit compared to other surrounding localities? That could be a valuable benchmark.

Jodie Strum
Jodie Strum
2 months ago

Excited to see Thalhimer as part of the team selected- it’s important to have local experience and presence on projects of this scale, and TRP has a great reputation and track record. I’m also really glad to see Council not trip over themselves and put egos aside in order to facilitate a much needed refurbishment and revitalization of this area.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  Jodie Strum

“It’s important to have local experience and presence…” Really? It’s not better to get the best group in? This sounds like the definition of provincialism and perhaps even corruption, and even small-time corruption. Even with the logic of corruption, big time players can at least (IF there is any actual illegal corruption — most corruption is legal) bring the big dollars. One thing that any watchers of big money corruption can easily see historically, like in Toronto or, of course, NYC is that attracting big money from outside makes a region very prosperous — and the tide raises most boats.… Read more »

Jamie Ficor
Jamie Ficor
2 months ago

The idea of a new stadium (in Shockhoe bottom) was first floated in Summer of 2003. 19+ years later…..

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance….” – Lloyd Christmas

Michael P Morgan-Dodson
Michael P Morgan-Dodson
2 months ago
Reply to  Jamie Ficor

The Stadium replacement at the Diamond site was going to be through the RMA in early 2000 until Jamieson said he wanted to try a downtown river site. County’s balked and walked away…..26 year later we MIGHT see a new stadium. This voted in resolution just says hey we found our developer now lets make a deal.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
2 months ago

In the entire 60 acres there will be 6300 structured parking spaces. Good luck on game day when the property is built out. It will be OK for a few years when only phase 1 is involved since there will still be surface parking where the Diamond is currently located. As additional phases are developed parking issues will become a factor. Residents have to have parking, the two proposed hotels will have to have parking, and if office space is developed that will need parking.

Good luck on game days whether they are afternoon or evening!

Peter James
Peter James
2 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Maybe let’s focus on moving Richmond out of the antiquated car-centric method of urban design and planning and more toward a design and planning mode less reliant on accomodating an armada of individual automobiles. Yes – I realize there are baseball fans who will come in from the suburbs or from other, far reaching points in the city. But IF — and as — the city builds out a better public transit system in lock step with increased density (which is the ‘ideal’ outcome of TOD-1 zoning that is being implemented all across the city) the ‘need’ for ‘local’ parking… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Peter James
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

Problem here is you are thinking WAY outside of the box. It’s like you are not even willing to take reality into consideration. Sure, you’ll object, people should not drive so much, sure, there are many people who wish they could drive less.

But the reality is that no one walks to the stadium in Richmond. Your proposal sounds just like the sorts of things that produced the White Elephant cliche — and if you were the King of Siam, the taxpayers/shareholders would be the people who displeased him.

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

All for any type of efficient public transportation, but would be very curious what your opinion of “better public transit system is”? The only current option and realistic future option is the bus system. Light rail and subway are way cost prohibitive and will never be built in Richmond. Unless you live on Broad Street and want to travel to another point less than five miles away on Broad Street (or a few blocks off) the transit times for the bus are not efficient at all. I believe last I heard it was about a 28 minute trip to go… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

Thank you for trying to explain something close to reality to these people. Indeed, Cincinatti, a town that boomed far bigger than Richmond in golden era of transport, also had an extensive street car system in the 19th century, looks more impressive than Richmond even though it is still more moribund right now — yet is still 50% larger than Richmond STILL does not have the subway it tried to build in the 1920s — the one favor the Depression did for C was halting the construction of the subway until it was obvious the era of the car was… Read more »

karl hott
karl hott
2 months ago

This is a teaching moment that Richmond has better options than casino development. Unanimous.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago
Reply to  karl hott

I guess. Baseball stadiums are also controversial.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 months ago

So, does anyone have an opinion on whether this proposal was the best one?

Blair Nelsen
Blair Nelsen
2 months ago

Never underestimate Council’s ability to kill this project with unrealistic demands of the developers.