A Planned Richmond, Virginia Arena-Village Plan Hits A Speed Bump

There goes the planned neighborhood.

Richmond, Virginia Mayor Levar Stoney’s plan to build a state-of-art arena in the city has taken a major blow.  The Navy Hill Advisory Commission did not think the proposed, publicly financed $300 million arena was a sound and reasonable public investment in the redevelopment of Richmond’s downtown. The Commission pointed out that a failure of the arena operations or marketing would almost certainly require city intervention. The Commission was troubled that alternative uses for the site were not considered. They also questioned the need for a 17,500-seat arena and suggested that the entire Richmond market should provide financial support for the arena. The commission debunked the theory that an arena would be an economic generator concluding that the arena itself was unlikely to create strong and reliable retail, entertainment, lodging or restaurant destinations or demand.  Stoney’s plan was to use the facility as an anchor for a redevelopment of a city owned eight-block area.

The arena would be a lure for getting big name bands along with college basketball tournaments to come through Richmond according to Stoney. The arena would be the biggest in Virginia and would be surrounded by housing, a hotel and dozens of new restaurants if all went according to the plan. How to pay for demolition of the Richmond Coliseum which is situated in the eight-block zone and all of the new construction is a problem. Stoney claimed the project would pay for itself. The Stoney plan would get rid of the city’s 48-year old arena, city office buildings and parking lots and build a new downtown. Richmond would invest $300 million into the arena. Richmond would get $900 million in private money for the village part. City officials have to hope the village would generate a great deal of revenue.  It is a huge bet with huge risks.