More Diamond District details released; city narrows pool to 2 developers
Richmond panel to decide by 'end of summer'
Richmond has narrowed its pool of Diamond District development team finalists from three to two, city officials announced Friday, while releasing some more details about the competing proposals, which include thousands of residential units and a new Richmond Flying Squirrels stadium expected to be paid for with bonds.
Still in the running to develop a new mixed-use neighborhood and baseball stadium on nearly 68 acres off Interstate 95 are RVA Diamond Partners and Richmond Community Development Partners (RCDP). The project proposals include a range of 2,300 to 3,200 residential units as part of the Diamond District, and 100 subsidized units — including at least 40% for Gilpin Court residents — are part of the city’s goal for affordable housing.
The winning team will be chosen “by the end of the summer,” according to a document released Friday by the city, as the city government’s Diamond District’s evaluation panel members continue examining the two development teams’ financial details.
Under either group’s plan, stadium construction and infrastructure like sidewalks and utilities would be paid for through Tax Increment Finance (TIF) bonds, but the city will not have to guarantee repayment of the bonds, even if the project falls short of expected tax revenues. Virginia Commonwealth University and the Richmond Flying Squirrels will pay leases to use the stadium, the city says.
Putting the project under considerable deadline pressure is the timely replacement of The Diamond, the 37-year-old home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels AA baseball team. In 2020, Minor League Baseball revamped its facilities requirements to include indoor batting cages, coaches’ rooms, locker rooms for female employees and other features that the aging Richmond stadium lacks. In order for the Squirrels to be in an MLB-compliant stadium by the league’s March 2025 deadline, construction must start soon, developers have said.
The city’s document released Friday puts the requirement in stark terms: “A new ballpark must be built to keep Minor League Baseball in Richmond beyond the 2024 season.”
The entire multiphase project is expected to be completed in up to 15 years, with the inclusion of housing, hotel and retail space (and possibly office space), in addition to the stadium.
Both finalists include national and local developers and contractors. Diamond Partners includes Washington, D.C.-based Republic Properties Corp. and Chicago-based Loop Capital Holdings LLC as well as Richmond-based Thalhimer Realty Partners Inc. and San Diego venue developer JMI Sports.
RCDP includes San Francisco-based commercial real estate company JMA Ventures, Houston-based Machete Group and Tryline Capital, which has offices in Connecticut and New York, the Richmond office of Gilbane Building Co., and Richmond-based Davis Brothers Construction Co. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Odell Associates Inc. is the project’s proposed stadium architect.
The development team excluded by the city Friday, Vision300 Partners LLC, was a joint venture among 40 Richmond-area businesses and community organizations led by Boston developer Freehold Communities and included Dallas architecture firm HKS Inc. and Richmond-based companies such as Spy Rock Real Estate Group, Hourigan, Shamin Hotels and engineering firm Timmons Group Inc.
The city’s Diamond District advisory panel — a 10-person group of two Richmond City Council members and seven city employees, as well as a representative from VCU — was expected to recommend one team by the end of July, but that deadline passed without a decision. In late July, City Council President Cynthia Newbille urged the panel to finalize its recommendation — which will head to council for a vote — in short order.