Richmond pares down Diamond District developer pool
Remaining six applicants to provide more info by April 25
Story updated, March 24 at 11:45 a.m.
The city of Richmond announced Wednesday that six competing development teams have been chosen out of 15 applicants to continue in the competition to redevelop the Diamond District area near the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ stadium.
The city requested applications late last year for the 67.57-acre site, which would include a new AA baseball stadium and a more walkable multiuse development connecting the new stadium with the Scott’s Addition neighborhood and Virginia Commonwealth University’s athletic village. The teams announced Wednesday include:
- Diamond District Gateway Partners
- MAG Partners
- Richmond Community Development Partners
- RVA Diamond Partners
- Vision300 Partners LLC
- Weller Development Co. and LMXD
Specific details — including all of the people and companies backing the six competing development proposals — have not yet been provided by the city, but some were formed specifically for the project.
According to a person involved with Vision300 Partners, which formed in 2020, the entity is “a local and diverse group” that includes about 40 Richmond-area businesses and community organizations, including lead developer Freehold Communities, which has a presence in Richmond; developer Spy Rock Real Estate Group; building company Hourigan; staffing firm Astyra Corp.; Canterbury Enterprises; Shamin Hotels; lead architect HKS; and engineering firm Timmons Group. The group also includes the Metropolitan Business League, the Better Housing Coalition and the YMCA of Greater Richmond, as well as former NFL player Mike Robinson and former soccer pro Greg Simmonds, who are involved with youth sports.
“We recognize there is a lot of interest in transforming this area based on the number of responses received,” said a statement from Vision300, noting that its proposal would align with the city government’s Richmond 300 master plan. “We’re a diverse group of local Richmond leaders who care deeply about the city’s development, design, youth development, community investment and wellness. Each of us is working in multiple ways to create a better future. We see this project as an opportunity to bring local government, business, and nonprofits together to move the region forward.”
MAG Partners is a woman-owned urban real estate company based in New York City; Weller Development Co. is a Baltimore-based real estate development firm, and LMXD is a mixed-income development-focused affiliate of L+M Development Partners Inc., a real estate development firm based in New York.
Richmond City Councilor Katherine Jordan, who represents the district where the development would take place and is one of two city councilors on the advisory panel, said Thursday that she wouldn’t provide further information on the three other partnerships in order to keep the process competitive. However, she said that the panelists were “intrigued by teams with local partners,” and that to her knowledge, all six groups have local members now.
According to the city, these six groups must provide additional requested information about their proposals by April 25 at 3 p.m. to continue the process. The new intermediary step is intended to obtain more detailed plans for the city’s evaluation panel — a group of 10 city and VCU representatives — to review. The application requests details on financing, project goals, development team organizational charts and a fully outlined project plan with deadlines and benchmarks, among other information.
The city expects to further narrow down the group of applicants during the week of May 9 and expects to host a public meeting during the week of May 24. Finalists will then submit their final formal requests by the week of June 6, and the panel will announce its preferred development team later in the month. At that point, Richmond City Council will vote on the final plan, which must pass with seven out of nine votes.
Jordan said that the council vote required seven votes instead of a simple majority because the development involves the transfer of city-owned land.
Rob Long, owner of the River City Roll bowling alley and president of the Greater Scott’s Addition Association, says that his group has held off on hearing from applicants so far, preferring to wait until the list of 15 was winnowed down. “I think now that we have a shortlist, all six finalists will sit down and get our input,” he said Wednesday in an interview with Virginia Business. “Our job as an association is to offer whatever guidance we can to make this neighborhood better, keep the current character of the neighborhood intact.”
Business owners in Scott’s Addition, which has quickly pivoted from a mostly industrial community to a mixed-use residential, retail and office neighborhood over the past decade, are interested mainly in the project bringing a “world-class ballpark” with an experienced builder, as well as broader community uses for that stadium when the Flying Squirrels aren’t playing home games. “VCU and the Squirrels want that,” Long said.
Other key priorities business owners have identified for the project, Long said, include affordable housing, green space and walkability from the stadium to the Scott’s Addition neighborhood — an often perilous journey across multiple lanes of traffic on Arthur Ashe Boulevard — as well as allowing locally owned businesses to take priority over national chains in the development. “We welcome conversations with all six groups.”
Jordan noted that the proposed Cordish Cos. casino project at the Bow Tie Cinemas property off Arthur Ashe Boulevard, a project she opposed and was ultimately passed over in favor of the One Casino + Resort on the South Side, was different from the Diamond District, which has been discussed extensively during the Richmond 300 planning sessions and other meetings to redevelop the area.
“I would say the primary difference from the [North Side] casino is [that] people love the Squirrels,” she said. “To me, we’ve got the buy-in for these uses. The casino didn’t have that. It was problematic from the start.”
The city’s evaluation panel on the Diamond District is accepting public comment and questions here.