Aug 3, 2022 - News

Clock ticking on Diamond District decision

Illustration of a tiny stadium being overshadowed by a large For Sale sign
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

City officials are nearing a decision on who to award a lucrative deal to redevelop the Diamond District and build a new ballpark.

Why it matters: The city is marketing the 66.7 acres of publicly owned land as one of the most valuable parcels along the I-95 corridor.

  • It currently houses three athletic venues — The Diamond, Sports Backers Stadium and the Arthur Ashe Center — surrounded by a sea of surface parking and vacant lots.

Driving the news: During a city council meeting last week, Council President Cynthia Newbille pressed the 10-member selection committee to make their decision this month.

  • The city, which had hoped to name a developer in July, is already facing a time crunch if it hopes to meet a 2025 deadline set by Minor League Baseball to have a new stadium in place for the Flying Squirrels.
  • MLB officials' new facility requirements, like brighter lights and bigger clubhouses, has prompted a cascade of stadium upgrade and construction projects.

State of play: The city named three development groups as finalists for the project back in May.

Limited details about the three proposals have been made public, but here's what we know so far:

Concept renderings submitted by Richmond Community Development Partners. Images courtesy of City of Richmond

Richmond Community Development Partners is led by a Houston-based development group that worked on an array of big arena projects, including the Barclays Center in New York City and Chase Center in San Francisco, according to Richmond BizSense.

  • Their proposal emphasizes creating a street grid with lots of green space, bike lanes and pedestrian access, according to city documents.
Concept renderings submitted by RVA Diamond Partners. Images courtesy of City of Richmond

RVA Diamond Partners is backed by Thalhimer Realty Partners, a large local development firm that's partnering with the D.C.-based firm behind the redevelopment of Washington Harbor in Georgetown, per BizSense.

  • The group's initial renderings envision a wide, winding park through the center of the property.
Concept renderings submitted by Vision 300 Partners. Images courtesy of City of Richmond

Vision300 Partners emphasizes its Richmond roots, led by the principal of Hourigan Construction and with an array of community partners, including YMCA of Greater Richmond.

  • The pitch: "A new home for the Squirrels. A new concert venue. A new YMCA. A new neighborhood. … A magnet for talent and investment."

What's next: After the selection committee makes a decision, the proposal will still require approval by a super majority of Richmond City Council members because it involves the sale of city properties.

  • City council approval is a hurdle that has sunk other big-ticket proposals, most recently the development of a proposed downtown coliseum in 2020.
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