The city’s plan to replace the Richmond Coliseum with a mixed-use development and convention center hotel has officially drawn interest from five development teams – including the first runner-up for the Diamond District project.
The city announced Wednesday it had received five responses to its request-for-interest solicitation by the Dec. 20 deadline for its City Center redevelopment project. The respondents include:
Capstone Development LLC, a Maryland-based firm that’s the hotel developer for RVA Diamond Partners, the team picked earlier this year to develop the Diamond District.
City Center Gateway Partners, led by locally based Capital Square and Shamin Hotels, D.C.-based Dantes Partners, North Carolina-based Ancora and Virginia Beach-based Gold Key | PHR.
Lincoln Property Company, a Dallas-based firm that has developed commercial and residential properties across the U.S. and in Europe.
Richmond Community Development Partners, the runner-up for the Diamond District that’s led by Houston-based Machete Group.
Sterling Bilder LLC, a local development firm led by Josh Bilder.
The teams, which could include additional members, are vying for development of the 9-acre City Center assemblage that includes the shuttered arena and the site of a long-sought convention center hotel.
The project involves demolishing the Coliseum, adaptive reuse of the neighboring Blues Armory building, infrastructure improvements, and development of a 500-room hotel to support the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Also required is office and retail space, new housing including lower-income units, parking and transit facilities, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and public open space.
Tourism officials have said for years that a convention center hotel is needed because existing downtown hotels do not have the capacity to serve the convention center to its fullest potential. An additional 500-room hotel that would supplement the facility is viewed as the solution to bringing more business to the convention center.
The teams’ responses to the city’s request for interest are to be evaluated based on criteria spelled out in the RFI document and by a panel comprised of the Richmond Economic Development Authority, the GRCC Authority and city representatives.
A shortlist of teams to be invited to respond to a request for offers is anticipated to be announced in the first quarter of next year. The RFO would be released around that time, and a development team selection could be made in the spring.
Second chance for Diamond District runner-up
For Richmond Community Development Partners, City Center presents a second chance to do business in Richmond after narrowly missing the Diamond District project.
David Carlock, whose Machete Group is once again leading the team, said its membership largely remains the same, with some additions specific to City Center’s components. He said Tryline Capital, a New York-based development firm that was on the Diamond District team, is not on this latest iteration.
“We’ve added some folks onto the development team given the opportunity here, in life science as an example. We’ve expanded our affordable housing approach,” Carlock said Monday.
“Generally, there are a few differences in terms of key team members, but mostly we’ve brought the Diamond District team over and we’ve added a couple of development partners where we think it made sense to bring some additional capability based on the vision for City Center,” he said.
Among those that carried over is architecture firm Hanbury, which is leading the team’s design. Carlock declined to go into more details about the team before the evaluation panel had a chance to conduct its review.
While Machete Group’s work as a venue advisory and development management firm has focused largely on sports venues, Carlock said it has also advised on entertainment venues, hence its involvement on the City Center team.
“We have been working a lot on public assembly, but our core experience is in placemaking and in delivering against complex projects,” he said. “In this particular instance, we do think that there’s a significant opportunity from an entertainment venue standpoint, so that’s part of the way we’re thinking about the potential program here.”
While it came up just short in its bid for the Diamond District, Carlock said the team was just as interested in vying for City Center.
“We’d gotten to know Richmond pretty well before we threw our hat into the ring on the Diamond District. Going through that process, we had the opportunity to take a much deeper dive,” he said.
“We’re bullish on Richmond. We like a lot of things about the market, we like a lot of things about the city,” he said. “We think that the opportunity to create a really meaningful project in this part of the city is exciting, and we think it’s needed.”
Capital Square, Shamin Hotels team up
Also vying for the project is City Center Gateway Partners, led by Richmond-based real estate investment firm Capital Square and hotelier Shamin Hotels, along with developers Dantes Partners out of D.C., Ancora out of Durham, N.C., and Gold Key | PHR out of Virginia Beach.
In a statement, Capital Square said 60 percent of the team’s members are locally owned companies, and 50 percent are minority-owned.
“We have assembled a team that pairs national expertise with local understanding of our exciting city to help this area of Downtown reach its full potential,” the statement said.
Capital Square and Dantes Partners had also vied for the Diamond District with a team called Diamond District Gateway Partners. Capital Square, based in Henrico, has made moves in recent years into development in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Dantes focuses on income-based housing and is currently developing Pin Oaks Estates, a 98-unit apartment complex in Petersburg.
Shamin Hotels, the Richmond area’s largest hotel operator, had been on a competing Diamond District team, Vision300 Partners, whose members included Hourigan and Better Housing Coalition.
Reached Wednesday, Hourigan CEO Mark Hourigan and Better Housing CEO Greta Harris said they are not on a City Center team. Hourigan said the timing for the project wasn’t a good fit, and Harris said BHC explored potential collaborations but none of them came together.
Calls to Capstone Development and Lincoln Property Co. were not returned Wednesday. Capstone, which focuses on hotel, residential and mixed-use developments, has developed five hotels in D.C. and Maryland, including the Marriott-branded Courtyard Washington Downtown/Convention Center in D.C. Lincoln has developed commercial and residential buildings across the country, including the 1030 15th Street and 699 Fourteenth buildings in D.C.
Bilder has ‘vision’ for site
Josh Bilder, who leads the firm that was launched by his grandfather, Larry Sterling, previously vied for the city’s Navy Hill project, a larger redevelopment effort that didn’t go forward and involved some of the same properties. Bilder offered an alternative plan that would have retained the Coliseum that he said grew out of an initial proposal for an adaptive reuse of the Blues Armory building.
“I’ve had a vision for the property for many years,” Bilder said. “At that time, they said that they weren’t interested in doing a one-off project, that they were interested in doing the entire site that City Center is located on. Over the years I developed a plan for what to do with the property, and I’ve come up with a cohesive plan that I feel would be something that is profitable for the city and represent a capital investment in the city.”
With City Center involving a smaller footprint than Navy Hill, as the first phase of a larger effort to revitalize the 20-block area now dubbed the City Center Innovation District, Bilder said his firm has a fighting chance.
“My company has a 77-year history of redeveloping in Richmond, going back to my grandfather,” Bilder said. “I realize that the companies that have submitted proposals are some of the largest in the country. My company is smaller, but I would just say that at one time they were just like my company and you have to start somewhere. I look forward to being able to present my full plan to the city economic development department and the city of Richmond at-large.”
Reviewing the submissions is a 10-member evaluation panel, whose members were listed in Wednesday’s announcement. They are:
Nupa Agarwal, Richmond Economic Development Authority Board vice chair;
Melvin Carter, city fire and emergency services chief;
Sharon Ebert, city deputy chief administrative officer for planning and economic development;
Pat Foster, director of the city’s minority business development office;
Brandon Hinton, GRCCA finance committee chair;
Nathan Hughes, Richmond EDA Board treasurer;
Lynne Lancaster, city public works deputy director;
Lincoln Saunders, city chief administrative officer and GRCCA board member;
Leonard Sledge, Richmond EDA executive director; and,
Sheila White, city finance director.
The panel will be advised by Maritza Pechin, deputy planning director and City Center project manager, and Matthew Welch, a city policy advisor on planning and economic development. Other advisors may be added later, according to the announcement.