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900-page Coliseum redevelopment plan unveiled to City Council

Updated: Aug. 5, 2019 at 5:56 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After 17 months of closed-door negotiations and pushed-back announcement time frames, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s full proposal to redevelop Richmond Coliseum and the 10-block downtown area surrounding it, has finally been unveiled.

A group of ordinances related to the Navy Hill redevelopment project were officially introduced to the Richmond City Council during a special meeting Monday. Now, council members will vet the $1.5 billion deal and ultimately either vote it through or squashing it altogether.

“It just comes down to basic cost versus benefit. How much is it going to cost us, and what are we gaining from it?” City Council Member Kim Gray said.

Stoney and a private group of investors called the NH District Corp. are aiming to reinvent downtown and say the project will create $1 billion in extra tax revenue for the city. Stoney has pledged half of that money would go to funding schools and other ways to better the city, like creating more affordable housing.

Skeptics of the plan want to make sure the city isn’t on the hook for any money, if the project flops and the tax revenue isn’t generated. There’s also concern that the tax dollars used to pay for the city-owned portion of the project could be used more effectively elsewhere.

The Richmond City Council will now pore through more than 1,000 pages of documents outlining the project. The redevelopment includes a new $235 million arena, hotel, apartment building with affordable housing units, renovated Blues Armory, retail, office and restaurant space, a new GRTC bus stop and road improvements.

Stoney says private investors will put up the funds. Future tax dollars generated from a specific area surrounding the development will pay back investors for the arena, which will be city-owed.

“We have a plot of land over there that’s not working for anyone right now,” Jeff Kelley, a spokesperson for the NH District Corp., said “To build a neighborhood over there that can generate taxes and build the future of Richmond is the goal, and it will work.”

Stoney says that the city will not be responsible for paying back the arena if the tax dollars aren’t generated by the redevelopment.

“The investors take the hit,” Kelley said. He said all of those details are outlined in the plan in writing.

Concerned residents showed up for the meeting, holding signs saying “No one elected Tom Farrell.” Farrell is Dominion Energy’s CEO and a main driver behind NH District Corp.

“We’re really concerned about the long term effects of the tax incremental financing that will take place," resident Allan Chipman said. "It would take a portion of the property tax revenue to this project, whether it succeeds or not.”

The Richmond City Council has appointed a Navy Hill Commission of citizens with expertise in development to help vet the plans. The commission will hold several public meetings, which haven’t yet been scheduled, and will give recommendations back to the City Council within three months.

“We have to plan for worst-case scenarios," Gray said. "We have to look at realistic numbers and there are lots of variables. So, that’s something that this commission will be examining.”

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