The city launches an official solicitation for the redevelopment of the “Diamant District”

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An aerial view of the area around the Diamond. (BizSense File Photo)

The latest push in the multi-year effort to replace The Diamond and expand the city-owned land around it has now officially launched to the world.

The City of Richmond on Tuesday released an Official Request of Interest (RFI) for a roughly stadium-anchored mixed-use redevelopment of the approximately 60-acre site it markets as the “Diamond District.”

The long-awaited document kicks off a two-part solicitation process that will culminate next year with the selection of one or more development teams to work with the city on a multi-phased project. If successful, the effort would be in line with Richmond’s master plan, while keeping the city’s minor league ball club in town.

Richmond Flying Squirrels, the local Double-A club that have been promised a new stadium since joining in 2010, would need a new stadium by the 2025 season to meet new facility standards that have been implemented for professional baseball this year. According to the document, renovating the 36-year-old Diamond to meet these standards is not considered feasible.

To meet this deadline, the RFI is asking that the new stadium with a capacity of 10,000 seats be built first – and in a new suggested location.

The document says the city is now considering the new stadium along Arthur Ashe Boulevard just south of The Diamond – a change from the location described in an amendment to the city’s master plan that places the new stadium along Hermitage Road, east of The Diamond and in the area of ​​what is now Sports Backers Stadium.

The location along the boulevard, according to RFI, is intended to “integrate other commercial, residential or commercial uses wrapped around all or part of the stadium”.

The new stadium, which could accommodate 8,000 people and 2,000 standing spectators, is expected to occupy 7-10 acres and cost around $ 80 million. The Diamond can currently accommodate around 6,000 people.

The Sports Backers Stadium would effectively be relocated as part of the overall development effort, as would the nearby Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Center. Developers are encouraged to help move the functions of these facilities to free up these sites for further redevelopment.

Now nicknamed The Diamond District, the City of Richmond is beginning the process of redeveloping the Diamond and the land surrounding it on North Arthur Ashe Boulevard. (City courtesy documents)

RFI describes “an ideal project” as including these components, as well as new uses including office, housing and retail, a hotel to support these uses, and upgrades to infrastructure such as water. , sewers and roads. The residential component would include rental and for-sale housing that would include housing for low-income households.

The full RFI document is posted online and can be viewed at rvadiamond.com. RFI’s submissions are due at 3 p.m. on February 15, with a virtual pre-submission meeting and site visit scheduled for January. Developers will also have the option to submit written questions.

Once the submission deadline closes, a panel of city employees, city council members and VCU staff will assess responses and compile a shortlist of companies to be invited to submit proposals. A request for proposals would require these proposals in April or May, and final selections would be made in the spring or summer.

RFI stresses that proposals should use funding approaches that minimize public investment and risk and maximize private investment, such as direct contributions to capital, team hire payments, sharing of naming rights and other approaches.

He describes public funding as being generally supported by income from property taxes, such as funding through tax increases, as well as sales taxes in the project area, accommodation taxes, admission taxes and other sources of income.

The city developed the RFI with consultancy firm AECOM, which has also worked on updating the Richmond 300 master plan and related planning efforts that remain underway. Maritza Pechin, a former AECOM associate who joined the city’s planning staff this year, is leading the RFI effort.

The RFI includes a market analysis, rough feasibility analysis and other supporting documents produced by AECOM, as well as excerpts from Richmond 300 and other city maps.

The rough feasibility plan assumes the Flying Squirrels and VCU would pay unspecified rent for the use of the stadium, which would host approximately 65 Squirrels games per year, 20 VCU baseball games, 10 high school games, other amateur sports and spectator events, two concerts and 100 non-spectator events such as meetings and receptions.

The new stadium is expected to generate $ 339,000 per year in sales tax, $ 641,000 in tax on meals, $ 270,000 in lodging tax and $ 869,000 in admission tax.

The plan indicates that The Diamond, built in 1985, is the second oldest Double-A baseball stadium in the country and is considered functionally obsolete. Earlier this year, Major League Baseball released new facility standards that put The Diamond in non-compliance over issues such as lack of locker rooms for female staff, lack of marshals and dining areas, Insufficient clubhouse, workout and weight room space, and lack of closed pitching and hitting tunnels.

Despite these challenges, the document says, the Flying Squirrels – the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – reached a total annual attendance of 400,000, ranking third among all Double-A ball clubs and 23rd among all. MiLB teams in 2019.


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