Stoney calls for replacement of 'decaying' Coliseum, entire downtown revitalization

Stoney calls for replacement of 'decaying' Coliseum, entire downtown revitalization
The Richmond Coliseum was built in 1971. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond's mayor announced an economic development plan Thursday, to replace the Richmond Coliseum and revitalize the area of downtown surrounding it, north of Broad Street.

Mayor Levar Stoney called the 46-year-old facility a "decaying public asset" that "no longer meets the needs of our community," draining a million city dollars a year, just to operate.

A report released earlier this year suggested that a group of investors was moving forward with plans to replace the Coliseum.

The arena is projected to operate in the red for the upcoming budget year, with about $1.5 million in tax money being used to keep it up and running. Stoney has said the facility is in disrepair and that is it "unacceptable" to use that amount of money to operate it.

Finance records obtained by NBC12 reveal the coliseum has lost money since at least 2014, showing a "net operating loss" of $767,995 in 2014. That trend continued each consecutive year, with a projected $876,031 loss in 2018.

Richmond tax dollars make up the difference in a payment to the Coliseum's management company, SMG. Add to that an annual debt payment for renovations, and Richmonders are shelling out about a $1.5 million a year to keep the Coliseum in action. In previous years, the city has spent upwards of $1.8 million.

The city's previous administration under former Mayor Dwight Jones entered into a contract with the Coliseum last year, which lasts through December 2018.

Stoney is calling for major redevelopment, including a new GRTC transfer station, a 400-room hotel near the Greater Richmond Convention Center and new, affordable housing.

"This is going to be a highly competitive process," said Stoney, during an announcement atop city hall's observation deck.

Stoney is calling for developers across the country to submit designs, posting  a Request for Proposals for development.

Potential developers must address:

  • A 17,500-seat replacement arena for the Richmond Coliseum, 

  • Mixed income and affordable housing

  • Local job creation and local hiring with Minority Business Enterprise and ESB participation goals

  • A permanent GRTC transfer station

  • A 400-room Convention Center hotel

  • Historic preservation and reuse of the Blues Armory

Stoney says the goal is to stimulate the city's economy and create jobs for Richmonders, helping lift people out of poverty.

"Our process will prioritize development proposals that will contribute to poverty mitigation, by providing jobs and careers for Richmond residents," added Stoney.

Stoney also said he'd even allow for certain city properties in the area, like the social services building, to be taken down, if that's what the plans call for.

Stoney said the city will not use current tax dollars or bonds to fund any private component of a proposal. However, the administration is willing to consider proposals that incorporate tax increment financing or the creation of special service districts. That means a portion of new property taxes generated from the development itself, will be dedicated back into the area of the project for things like sidewalks and lighting. The rest of the additional tax revenue could be used to fund other projects, like schools.

"We have too much to do for schools, housing, roads and other city priorities to leverage our limited borrowing capacity for this redevelopment," Stoney said.

Prospective developers will have 90 days to submit proposals.

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