City Council’s Navy Hill Commission finds project could pose risk to city funds, school system

City Council’s Navy Hill Commission finds project could pose risk to city funds, school system

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposed Navy Hill downtown redevelopment project has hit a bump. A report released by the Navy Hill Advisory Commission says the $1.5 billion project poses a risk to the city’s General Fund and school system.

The 70-page report was released Monday to City Council, which appointed the commission. The commission has spent the past three months dissecting the proposal by the NH District Corporation, backed by Stoney.

The project would replace the Richmond Coliseum and surrounding 10-block area with a new 17,500 seat arena, apartments, hotel, commercial and retail space, renovated Blues Armory, GRTC transfer station and road improvements.

The commission’s report reveals many of the commissioners believe a new arena poses a risk to funding for schools and city services.

“A majority of Commissioners did not find the proposed, publicly financed $300 million arena a sound and reasonable public investment in the redevelopment of Downtown,” stated the report.

There is also skepticism of the project’s costs. “A majority of Commissioners find that these costs have not been reasonably estimated,” stated the report.

Commission members were divided in their support over funding a new arena. Future real estate tax revenues from an 80-block area surrounding the development called a tax increment financing district would repay bondholders for the arena portion of the project. The rest would be privately funded.

The commission’s findings contrast Mayor Stoney’s position. Stoney says the plan poses no risk to Richmond or its financial well being.

Stoney insists the tax revenue generated by the project would help schools, in the long run. Stoney has promised to dedicate half of all surplus revenue generated by the Navy Hill Development, to Richmond education and infrastructure.

The report did not say how much future money could be lost by city services or schools.

In a statement, an NH District Corp. spokesperson said the commission’s report has insufficient information, and that they weren’t given enough time to present their case to the commission.

A statement on behalf of the NH District Corp. reads in part:

“The commission’s report cites ‘insufficient information’ in much of its analysis, yet NH District Corp. has more than made itself available to provide as much information as needed, only to be seemingly disregarded. For example, our first opportunity to present to the commission was on December 7 – two weeks before this report was due. Further, the commission has received factual, credible information from City staff, outside counsel, and NH District Corp. It is contradictory to cite insufficient information yet find a concrete conclusion about ‘risks’ in the report.”

The City Council is also awaiting a recommendation from an outside consulting firm.

Mayor Stoney released this statement after the report was released:

“I appreciate the time and effort of the volunteers who served on Richmond City Council’s Navy Hill Commission. City representatives answered scores of questions posed, and provided commissioners with factually accurate information and extensive professional expertise sufficient to inform their deliberations. The Navy Hill project, while not a panacea for all our challenges, responsibly addresses the critical need to redevelop and revitalize an underperforming area of our Downtown. I remain excited about the game-changing opportunity before us to advance economic empowerment for ALL our residents. I look forward to working with City Council and the community to address any concerns and to make this project even better for Richmond.”

Council is expected to make a final decision on the Navy Hill project in February.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.