11/8/2018, 6 a.m.
Our initial review of the plans to replace the Richmond Coliseum and renew a swath of Downtown has raised more questions than support for the $1.4 billion proposal initiated by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. “Tom” Farrell II and backed by Mayor Levar M. Stoney.
Chief among those questions is why the city would turn over valuable public assets to a private concern to lead development. Is the city not equipped to develop a vision and plan and lead redevelopment of Downtown? Why insert a middle man — NH Foundation — into the equation?
The plan also would cap the amount of real estate taxes going into city coffers from the 80-block Downtown area at its current level for the next 18 years. That means any increases generated by the real estate taxes would go to pay for a new Coliseum. So with all the hotels, office buildings, restaurants and other multimillion-dollar improvements targeted for the area, the city’s general fund wouldn’t reap any additional dollars for the next 18 years than it currently gets from the area because the additional money will be going toward paying for a new, larger Coliseum.
Richmond Public Schools, which already is struggling with how to replace or repair its aging, decrepit buildings, may have a growing student population with the 2,900-plus new apartments that are planned for the Downtown district. But for the next 18 years, the city will not have any added real estate tax revenue from the district to put toward schools, or police and fire services, or pothole and infrastructure repair.
We don’t like that.
Is a new Coliseum so important that it should rob potential added resources from critical needs such as schools and public safety? Does Richmond really need a bigger Coliseum, or can we refurbish and add to the one we have?
According to one market analysis, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Downtown is $1,374. So who will be living in the new apartments planned for the Downtown district? Are we again shutting out many people, including African-Americans, to make Downtown more attractive to a homogenous few?
We need more answers before we can get behind this project.
We hope members of Richmond City Council will take a hard look at this plan and its many implications before voting to approve it. While we want to see Richmond move forward, we don’t want it to benefit a few at the expense of the many, including our schoolchildren.