Developers claim Boulevard stadium worth millions more than Shockoe plan

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Developers of a proposed baseball stadium on the Boulevard claim their plan would bring in at least $65 million more in tax revenue over 20 years than a similar proposal in Shockoe Bottom.

The Rebkee Company sent the financial evaluation to Richmond City leaders Thursday in an effort to finally set up a meeting with officials. Rebkee owner Rob Hargett says he sent the City the figures after a series of community meetings showed a compelling interest in the proposal.

The group believes its plan would not only bring in more revenue over the long-haul, but says it would also allow the City to use the tax revenue sooner. Rebkee says tax revenue from the Mayor's plan would not be able to be used for needs such as schools and roads, because it would first need to be used to pay off Shockoe construction debt. The Rebkee plan would allow $1 million in tax revenue per year to be used right off the bat, according to developers.

The group prepared two sets of figures based on different square foot assumptions. The first set calls for 3.5 million square feet of apartments, hotels, retail, office and stadium space between the Boulevard and Shockoe developments. The group claims its plan would yield more than $253 million in tax revenue over 20 years, compared to around $188 million for the City's Shockoe plan.

A second set of figures based on what the Rebkee group calls more "realistic" numbers based on nearly half as much square footage still would bring in more revenue, the group claims. With the more modest development figures, the group believes its plan would yield nearly $87 million more over 20 years than the City's Shockoe plan.

The group proposes to buy up 15 acres of land from the City in phase one of the development at a cost of $2.1 million, once the City invests $9.7 million to prepare the site. Almost ten of the least valuable acres would be used for the stadium, on the land where the City has its garage next to where The Diamond currently stands. Another five acres north of Robin Hood Road will be used for related development. Rebkee envisions apartments similar to Camden Yards in Baltimore, commercial, office and restaurant space, along with a parking lot. The larger second phase would be part of a 3-year option subject to a series of approvals.

"As mentioned above, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  Because developing the stadium on the Boulevard is less expensive than developing the stadium Shockoe Bottom, the 'gap' that needs to be filled with revenue from the tax increment finance district is lessened," wrote Hargett in a letter to Richmond CAO Byron Marshall and the Mayor's Chief of Staff.

All Richmond City Council members have already been briefed on the Rebkee plan.

"I think it's a sign of good faith and honest dealing," City Council President Charles Samuels said Friday of the release of figures.

Samuels would like to take a closer look at the numbers, as well.

"I do believe if we have somebody who's willing to make an offer, it's definitely worth at least reviewing it to make sure we understand what's out there," he added. "I think taking a next step to see if this is a plan that could work couldn't hurt."

It is estimated the Rebkee plan will cost between $35 and $40 million and Hargett says the group has already secured funding with banks. This Rebkee stadium would have 6,000 fixed seats and the capacity to seat 10,000.

Mayor Dwight Jones withdrew his Shockoe Bottom development plan after failing to gain the required votes from City Council. The Mayor's administration has previously said it has ruled out the possibility of building a new ballpark on the Boulevard.

We reached out to the Mayor's office for a comment on the new numbers and if it would now be willing to sit down with the Rebkee Group. We have not heard back from Press Secretary Tammy Hawley yet.

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