RICHMOND – Richmond City Council members voted unanimously to approve the $2.44 billion Diamond District mixed-use development, which aims to include a replacement for the 38-year-old stadium of the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team by the end of 2025.
Councilors also approved an ordinance to convey 61 acres of city-owned land to the Richmond Economic Development Authority, which will then sell it to the Diamond District development team.
The vote gives the RVA Diamond Partners LLC development team the city’s go-ahead to move forward on the project, which includes building a 9,000-capacity, $90 million-plus baseball stadium and a hotel with at least 180 rooms in Phase 1, which is expected to cost a total of $627.6 million.
However, one more significant stakeholder must weigh in: the Flying Squirrels and Major League Baseball, which set an April 2025 deadline for all Minor League Baseball facilities to meet certain standards.
The Diamond, which opened in 1985, is considered too old to renovate and must be replaced. The Diamond District plan calls for the demolition of the smaller Sports Backers Stadium next to the Diamond, where the replacement Squirrels ballpark will be constructed.
The city will pay an estimated $25 million for a new Sports Backers Stadium in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University, which will include the new stadium in its Athletic Village project adjacent to the Diamond District.
Included in the development agreement is a set of deadlines for the design, demolition, groundbreaking and completion of the new stadium:
- Schematic design: May-August 2023;
- Design development: August-December 2023;
- General contractor design budgeting, bidding, and materials procurement: August 2023;
- Construction documents: November 2023-June 2024;
- Demolition of Sports Backers Stadium, mass grading, environmental remediation: February-April 2024;
- Groundbreaking for new stadium: April 2024;
- Ballpark construction: August 2024-December 2025.
The stadium is expected to cost at least $90 million, and the city is anticipating $118 million in financing for the stadium’s construction. The agreement sets $80 million as the minimum Community Development Authority (CDA) bond proceeds for the construction of the baseball stadium and public infrastructure, and the city will fund the first phase’s infrastructure with $23 million in Capital Improvement Plan General Obligation bonds, according to a PowerPoint presentation made available earlier this month.
The city also will add additional land parcels to the Incremental Financing Area, beyond the 67-acre Diamond District, to help fund the project, and $10 million in property sales will help reduce the stadium bond debt. The city agrees to pay incremental tax revenue for nine fiscal years, including a hotel use surcharge of 2% within the district and a 0.25% consumer purchase surcharge on all purchases within the CDA district.
The project also will include more than 3,000 rental and for-sale residential units, 935,000 square feet of office space, 195,000 square feet of retail and community space, and two hotels.
The city also must rezone the 67-acre Diamond District and create the Stadium Signage Overlay District, create a Community Development Authority and design standards, and reach lease agreements with the Flying Squirrels and Virginia Commonwealth University. The developer must also submit the subdivision of the land to Richmond City Council to create the new Diamond District.
RVA Diamond Partners includes Richmond-based Thalhimer Realty Partners, Washington, D.C.-based Republic Properties Corp., Chicago-based Loop Capital Holdings LLC, and San Diego venue developer JMI Sports.
Virginia Business: Published May 8, 2023 by Kate Andrews