Shockoe Ballpark Debate Fails to Reach Tipping Point 

click to enlarge Officials who attended the Jan. 8 tour of the area around the Durham Bulls ballpark in North Carolina include Todd Parnell, vice president and chief operating officer for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Mayor Dwight Jones and Lee Downey, director of Economic and Community Development.

Scott Elmquist

Officials who attended the Jan. 8 tour of the area around the Durham Bulls ballpark in North Carolina include Todd Parnell, vice president and chief operating officer for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Mayor Dwight Jones and Lee Downey, director of Economic and Community Development.

The last two weeks have seen concerted lobbying efforts aimed at winning over City Council members in the debate over Mayor Dwight Jones' proposal to locate a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom.

On one side, detractors collaborated to produce an alternative growth plan they hope will make it easier for council members to say no to the stadium.

On the other, Venture Richmond filled a bus with city officials bound for Durham, N.C., to see an ostensibly successful downtown ballpark development.

But neither effort seems to have tilted opinions in either direction.

In Durham, officials toured commercial development around the minor league park and heard from locals who said the project helped bring life to an area that was once so abandoned the police SWAT team used it for training sessions.

After the trip, Jones told Style Weekly that Durham's experience illustrates how important it is for politicians — cough, City Council, cough — to muster the political courage to support controversial projects.

"I think that it was interesting to hear about the dissent that they had there, and we're kind of feeling some of that now," Jones said. "But they were able to overcome it, because the biggest thing I heard them talking about is taking a risk."

The five City Council members who made the trip weren't so sure.

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson said she liked what she saw, but that Durham's experience didn't necessarily speak to Richmond's. "We've already done a lot of the things they've done," she said.

Instead, Robertson said the trip might have raised more questions than it answered. Specifically, she said she was concerned to learn about provisions the developers made to dedicate 20 percent of new revenue from the development to pay for city services — something that she said hasn't been accounted for in Richmond's projections.

"Our situation, I think, is quite different from Durham," Councilman Parker Agelasto said. "They were looking to convince companies to move to increase the tax base. We're already attracting people who want to live in Richmond — we're just having trouble providing the housing."

If the trip failed to provide the boost of support for which the ballpark's backers hoped, at least they can rest easy knowing the opposition isn't having much more luck.

In late December a group of activists released an alternative plan for the Bottom that includes development proposed by Jones, but substitutes the stadium for a memorial park.

Asked about the plan, council members Robertson, Jon Baliles and Michelle Mosby said an alternate proposal wouldn't affect their decision. They said only the mayor is in a position to vet and move forward an alternate plan.

But as with the Durham trip, the council members said the ideas the alternate plan contains will help them as they continue to weigh the mayor's proposal.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

  • Re: Wireless Recharging Firm Makes Mark in Scott's Addition

    • Hello everyone my name is Cindy John, i just want to share my experience and…

    • on September 24, 2016
  • Re: Joe Morrissey's Wife Criticizes Media, Speaks Out on Being "Used"

    • Wow reading these comments and likes, you can tell richmond's still in the closet about…

    • on September 23, 2016
  • Re: Short and Sweet: Why I Want to Be Mayor of Richmond

    • trump and morrisey!

    • on September 23, 2016
  • More »
  • More by Ned Oliver

    • Auto Spying

      Virginia lawmakers are fighting against the use of license-plate scanners by police. But what about the people privately watching your whereabouts?
      • Apr 28, 2015
    • City Explores Tax on Richmond Airbnb Rentals

      • Apr 21, 2015
    • Flash Forward

      Richmond is getting a $54 million, high-speed bus line right down Broad Street. But do we need it? Here are the answers to seven questions you might be asking.
      • Apr 21, 2015
    • More »

    Copyright © 2016 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation