City News

Economic Development

Mayor Stoney announces Strategic Plan for Equitable Economic Development (SPEED)

Mayor Stoney today unveiled the city’s Strategic Plan for Equitable Economic Development (SPEED). 

The plan, which will be introduced at tonight’s Richmond City Council meeting, focuses on community, innovation, and industry, and establishes five aggressive economic development goals through Fiscal Year 2026:

  • $3 billion in announced capital investment for economic development projects;
  • 3,000 announced new jobs with annual salaries at or above $52,000;
  • Reduce the poverty rate by 5 percentage points;
  • Public and private sector real estate development activities that generate $25 million in annual real estate tax revenue; and
  • 2,500 postsecondary credentials awarded to Richmond residents.

The plan outlines tangible steps toward addressing long-standing inequities that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including racial disparities in education, poverty, housing, and health. Each of the plan’s initiatives are designed to build a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable economy for Richmond.

“This plan is Richmond’s roadmap to economic prosperity,” said Mayor Stoney. “It’s a forward-looking assessment of the trends that got us where we are today and those that will carry us into the future. But this is not just an economic development plan. This is an economic justice plan.”

SPEED was developed in consultation with TIP Strategies; VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis; The M Companies; Hugh Helen LLC; input from meetings with more than 200 community and business leaders and stakeholders; and a survey that had more than 800 unique responses.

“The City’s new strategic plan for equitable economic development is a smart guide for how to grow our community,” said Jennifer Wakefield, President and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership. “The plan addresses inequities further exacerbated by the pandemic and provides solutions to bring prosperity to our residents in the city and for all who call our region home.”

“The Metropolitan Business League is encouraged to see the aggressive measures incorporated into Mayor Stoney’s [economic development] strategic plan for the city. We, too, believe that a multi-pronged approach is a critical component in supporting minority businesses. MBL agrees with the city that launching creative new business models can help create greater opportunities for business ownership and wealth creation,” said Floyd E Miller II, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Business League. “We stand ready to collaborate with the city as it strives to close the gaps in economic disparities, achieve greater equity, and accelerate growth to create more opportunities for Richmonders.”

“SPEED gives Richmond a plan to increase General Fund revenue through sound initiatives to reduce economic inequities, retain and grow existing businesses, and attract new businesses to the City,” said City Council Vice President Ellen Robertson.  “Essential to this is the emphasis on minority owned businesses, small businesses, and larger corporations.”

“Every day we see the impact of a City rife with inequities,” said City Councilmember Michael Jones. “The Strategic Plan for Equitable Economic Development (SPEED) is incredibly well crafted and will serve as a meaningful benchmark on our City’s path toward true equity. It seeks to address and offer solutions for many of the long-standing economic and social disparities experienced in our communities of color. If we have learned anything throughout this pandemic, it is that the City remains resilient. I am hopeful that SPEED will further our growth exponentially for years to come.”

“For our city’s future to be equitable, inclusive, and thriving, we must be intentional around our investment and economic development,” said City Councilmember Andreas Addison. “This plan outlines key tasks and priorities to address Richmond’s historical challenges in income, education, and housing gaps. I look forward to collaborating with the Mayor, the Administration, and my fellow Councilmembers to act on these priorities.”

For more information and to read the plan in full, visit https://www.rva.gov/economic-development/speed.

City invites three finalists to respond to Request for Offers in Diamond District project

Teams made the competitive cut because their design, program strength, community benefits and financing approaches meet high city expectations, align with vision for area

Three finalists in the Diamond District redevelopment project will be asked to respond to a Request for Offers (RFO). The RFO will be issued the week of May 30, 2022, and responses will be due June 28, 2022.

The city anticipates announcing the preferred team and terms of the agreement in July. The city reserves the right to alter the process and timeline as needed to ensure the greatest benefit is derived for the city and its residents in the creation of this new mixed-use neighborhood.

THE FINALISTS

After carefully considering the responses to the Request for Interest (RFI) and Request for Additional Information (RFAI), the Evaluation Panel has selected three finalist teams based on their design, program strength, community benefits and financing approaches (listed alphabetically):

  • Richmond Community Development Partners
  • RVA Diamond Partners
  • Vision300 Partners, LLC

OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN ABOUT THE PROPOSALS

The finalist teams prepared one-page summaries of their team, concept, and design. Those summaries are available to the public here.

In early June, the city will host a public meeting to update Richmonders on the process. Information on that meeting will be available here.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

About the Diamond District project

The Diamond District project is just one aspect of Richmond 300: A Plan for Growth, which has been awarded the 2021 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan for the American Planning Association. The plan provides a detailed roadmap to ensure “Richmond is a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, innovative, sustainable, and equitable city of thriving neighborhoods, ensuring a high quality of life for all.”

About the Diamond District Evaluation Panel
 

The Evaluation Panel is comprised of 10 members, including City Council members, city administrative staff, and VCU administrative staff.

Communication with the Panel

Members of the public can send comments/questions to the Diamond District Evaluation Panel by using this form. This form is publicly posted on the project page. Do not email the Evaluation Panel members, facilitator, or advisors about the Diamond District project, as emails sent directly to the Evaluation Panel about this project will not be read. Comments and questions will be reviewed every other week and distributed to the Evaluation Panel during the evaluation process.

Evaluation Panel Members

  1. James P. Duval – Investment and Debt Portfolio Manager, Finance Department
  2. Sharon L. Ebert – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Planning and Economic Development
  3. Karol Kain Gray – Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, Virginia Commonwealth University
  4. Katherine Jordan – Council Member, Second District
  5. Ann-Frances Lambert – Council Member, Third District
  6. J.E. Lincoln Saunders – Chief Administrative Officer
  7. Leonard L. Sledge – Director, Department of Economic Development
  8. Caprichia Smith Spellman – Interim Director, Office of Community Wealth Building
  9. Robert C. Steidel – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Operations
  10. Stephen M. Willoughby – Director of Emergency Communications

Evaluation Panel Facilitator

Maritza Mercado Pechin, Deputy Director, Department of Planning and Development Review, is the Project Manager for the Diamond District redevelopment process. She runs the evaluation panel meetings, coordinate logistics, and serve as the official point of contact between the evaluation panel and the respondents.

Evaluation Panel Advisors

These individuals will attend evaluation panel meetings and offer expertise as needed.

  • Lynne S. Lancaster – Deputy Director, Department of Public Works
  • Matthew A. Welch – Policy Advisor, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio

City invites six Diamond District respondents to respond to a Request for Additional Information

The City of Richmond is officially inviting 6 development teams to submit responses to Request for Additional Information (RFAI).

On February 15, 2022, the city received 15 submissions from development teams in response to the Diamond District Request for Interest (RFI) issued on December 28, 2021.

“The city is extremely pleased with the amount of interest in redeveloping this over 67-acre site,” said Deputy Director for Equitable Development Maritza Mercado Pechin. “Considering the area’s potential, this enthusiasm comes as no surprise. As we continue this careful and competitive process, we’re more optimistic than ever that the Diamond District will go far in supporting our growing city.”

The Diamond District Evaluation Panel reviewed the 15 submissions against the evaluation criteria listed in RFI. Based on the evaluation, six development teams have been invited to continue in the competitive process and respond to the RFAI (listed alphabetically):

  • Diamond District Gateway Partners
  • MAG Partners
  • Richmond Community Development Partners
  • RVA Diamond Partners
  • Vision300 Partners, LLC
  • Weller Development Company and LMXD

Based on its evaluation of RFAI responses, the Evaluation Panel will select development teams to respond to a Request for Offers.

The RFAI is a new intermediate step that the city has added to the Diamond District redevelopment process to facilitate the careful and competitive redevelopment of this strategic development opportunity. The city added the RFAI step to the process to collect more information for respondents prior to issuing a Request for Offers to the finalists. For the Request for Additional information (RFAI) document, please visit www.rva.gov/economic-development/diamond. Submissions are due on April 25, 2022 at 3 p.m.

The City anticipates the following evaluation process as outlined below. The City reserves the right to alter the process at any point to ensure the greatest benefit is derived for the City and its citizens.

  • RFAI Submissions Due – RFAI submissions are due no later than 3:00 p.m. ET on April 25, 2022.
  • RFAI Evaluation – The Evaluation Panel reviews the RFAI Responses.
  • Announcement of the Finalists – The City anticipates narrowing down the RFAI Respondents to its finalists the week of May 9, 2022.
  • Public Meeting –The City anticipates hosting a public meeting the week of May 24, 2022.
  • Request for Offers (RFO) – The City anticipates issuing the RFO to the Finalists the week of May 24, 2022.
  • RFO Submissions Due – The City anticipates that the RFO submissions will be due the week of June 6, 2022.
  • RFO Evaluation, Negotiation and Selection – The City will negotiate with one or more of the finalists to derive the best and highest benefit to the City and its residents. The City anticipates announcing its preferred development team in June 2022.

About the Diamond District project

The Diamond District project is just one aspect of Richmond 300: A Plan for Growth, which has been awarded the 2021 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan for the American Planning Association. The plan provides a detailed roadmap to ensure “Richmond is a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, innovative, sustainable, and equitable city of thriving neighborhoods, ensuring a high quality of life for all.”

About the Diamond District Evaluation Panel

The Evaluation Panel is comprised of 10 members, including City Council members, city administrative staff, and VCU administrative staff.

Communication with the Panel: Members of the public can send comments/questions to the Diamond District Evaluation Panel by using this form. This form is publicly posted on the project page. Do not email the Evaluation Panel members, facilitator, or advisors about the Diamond District project, as emails sent directly to the Evaluation Panel about this project will not be read. Comments and questions will be reviewed every other week and distributed to the Evaluation Panel during the evaluation process.

Evaluation Panel Members

  1. James P. Duval – Investment and Debt Portfolio Manager, Finance Department
  2. Sharon L. Ebert – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Planning and Economic Development
  3. Karol Kain Gray – Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, Virginia Commonwealth University
  4. Katherine Jordan – Council Member, Second District
  5. Ann-Frances Lambert – Council Member, Third District
  6. J.E. Lincoln Saunders – Chief Administrative Officer
  7. Leonard L. Sledge – Director, Department of Economic Development
  8. Caprichia Smith Spellman – Interim Director, Office of Community Wealth Building
  9. Robert C. Steidel – Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Operations
  10. Stephen M. Willoughby – Director of Emergency Communications

Evaluation Panel Facilitator: Maritza Mercado Pechin, Deputy Director, Department of Planning and Development Review, is the Project Manager for the Diamond District redevelopment process and will run the evaluation panel meetings, coordinate logistics, and serve as the official point of contact between the evaluation panel and the respondents.

Evaluation Panel Advisors: These individuals will attend evaluation panel meetings and offer expertise as needed.

  • Matthew A. Welch – Policy Advisor, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio
  • Lynne S. Lancaster – Deputy Director, Department of Public Works

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Relief, investment, and opportunity creation in the City of Richmond

City officials are poised to put forth a new resolution to bring the One Casino + Resort to Richmond.  Empowered with the knowledge that residents want to know how the casino revenue will be spent, city staff proposes a two-cent tax rate reduction and uses the additional revenue for one-time capital improvement projects for Richmond City Public Schools and the City of Richmond.

The infusion of 1500 jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth and development that will help Richmond grow is exactly what many leaders and community members desire.

But it is much more than dollars and cents, it is also about closing gaps and providing relief.  Equity and community wealth gaps can be narrowed with this one project.  As the city continues to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the casino project can assist with leveling the playing field for many Richmonders who continue to struggle during these uncertain and unprecedented times.  This resolution doubles down on the city’s commitment to creating “One Richmond”.

"Our city needs to explore opportunities that create new jobs, generate new revenues, and create new tourism destinations,” said Councilman Andreas Addison. “This is more than a casino, it’s a new privately funded entertainment district for music, arts, and other amenities in the heart of southside where more investment opportunities are needed. I support the democratic process to explore this project."

While the proposed ideas center around tax rate reduction and capital improvement projects, which are both areas that provide relief for Richmond residents, the main relief can be found in providing jobs for those hardest hit by COVID.  Relief can be found in the revenue being used to address transit mobility issues.  Relief can also be found in the revenue being used to address diversifying the city’s economic engines that can bring sustainable change to Richmond.

"I strongly believe that the revenue from the resort casino project can purposefully be used to provide property tax relief for residents across the city,” said Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert.  Richmond is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.  In fact, in the 3rd district, there are working families, seniors, and other residents on fixed incomes who are unable to pay for their increased property taxes.  They are at risk of losing their homes.  At the end of the day, I think that this project will help mitigate one of our city’s top issues."

Introducing new economic engines into the city is extremely important as the community looks strategically at moving away from being dependent on the government.

“Economic development is a top priority for 2022. A lack of diversity in revenue sources makes the cost of living in Richmond too high,” states Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. “As such, in 2022, we should focus on economic development to include: the Boulevard, Downtown/Central City Small Area Plan, $20M investment in affordable housing, South Richmond 1-95 Gateway and Urban One Hotel Casino Resort - which will create thousands of jobs, reduce real-estate taxes tremendously, and assist with completing facilities and infrastructure development throughout the city.  When we increase employment, increase tax revenue and retail sales, and put community benefits in place that will drastically impact the lives of citizens, we are certainly putting the community first.”

As Richmonders look towards the future of their city, officials have heard the need for more jobs, bringing the right development that benefits all of Richmond, and growing through sustainable economic development.

“The One Casino + Resort opportunity makes sense for our entire community.  Our residents should have the chance to change the narrative of their city and One Casino + Resort helps us do that,” stated Councilwoman Reva Trammell.  “Providing jobs and access is paramount to what we believe in doing in Richmond.  With the One Casino + Resort, we can jumpstart careers, provide access and wealth-building opportunities for those who need them, create spaces for creativity, and provide new educational outlets.  This is what inclusive development looks like – something for everyone.”

While the proposals have to be vetted, it is important to highlight some of the community benefits if One Casino + Resort calls Richmond home –

  • No city funding required
  • Capital Investment over $560M which can be spent on improvement projects in Richmond City Schools and the City of Richmond
  • Influx of 1500 jobs for those who need them most
  • $16M to support local community organizations which assists with decreasing the wealth gap
  • $325K to support transit mobility solutions which creates more access

Councilmember Michael Jones echoes the sentiments of his colleagues.  “Investment in our community and our people is the key to the casino project.  There is no time like the present to ensure that our residents know we are committed to creating a better Richmond for everyone,” said Councilmember Michael Jones. “While the casino may be housed on the Southside, its benefits will be felt citywide.”

The community benefits encompass all of Richmond therefore all Richmonders win.

“Our residents deserve tax relief and access to good jobs,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “They want public infrastructure improvements and more funding for school capital projects. This project provides a unique opportunity to do just that. I know City Council is committed to creating opportunities that uplift and support ALL Richmond residents, and I’m hopeful tonight’s vote affirms this shared commitment.”

This project is about the people of Richmond.  It is about providing security, relief, jobs, and investment which leads to a brighter future for the entire city.

Patrons for the resolution include President Newbille, Vice President Robertson, Councilman Jones, Councilwoman Trammell, Councilwoman Lambert, Councilman Addison, and Mayor Stoney.

The proposed resolution will be introduced at today’s City Council Meeting at 6 PM.

International Economic Development Council Announces Leonard Sledge as Board Member

International Economic Development Council Announces Leonard Sledge as Board Member

Leonard Sledge to Begin Serving Tenure as IEDC Board Member in January

Washington, D.C. — International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is proud to announce that Leonard Sledge, Director, Department of Economic Development of City of Richmond, has joined the IEDC Board of Directors for a two-year term. The process took place during the annual board meeting on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, at IEDC's 2021 Annual Conference in Nashville, TN. The upcoming term begins on January 1, 2022.

"We look forward to the addition of Sledge to our Board of Directors,” said 2021 IEDC Board Chair and President and CEO of Invest Buffalo Niagara, Tom Kucharski. “Their new role will ensure great accomplishments in 2022 and beyond." 

“We are very pleased with the credentials and commitment to economic development of our new board. They will help lead the International Economic Development Council to the future of this profession" added IEDC President and CEO Jeff Finkle.

"It is truly an honor to be selected to serve as a Board Member for the largest economic development organization in the world, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC)," said Sledge. "Now more than ever economic development professionals have a critical role to help ensure equitable economic growth in all communities. I look forward to supporting my colleagues in this mission and the advancement of our profession and the communities that we serve over the next two years."

Sledge is an economic development leader with over 15 years of experience. Currently serving as the Director of Economic Development for the City of Richmond, Sledge and his team focus on supporting the existing business community, attracting new companies, and transformational redevelopment projects. Sledge has previously served as the Director of Economic Development for Henry County, GA, the City of Hampton, and the College of William & Mary. Sledge received his multiple degrees from Morehouse College, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Phoenix. 

About the International Economic Development Council

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 5,000 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining, and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in a wide variety of settings including local, state, provincial, and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities, and a variety of other institutions. IEDC’s members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions. 

www.iedcONLINE.org

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