New Questions about the Shockoe Stadium Proposal

Source: "Revitalize RVA: An Economic Development Plan for Shockoe Bottom and the Boulevard." (Click for larger image.)
Source: “Revitalize RVA: An Economic Development Plan for Shockoe Bottom and the Boulevard.” (Click for larger image.)

by James A. Bacon

I’m heartened to see someone on the Richmond City Council ask tough questions about big headline-grabbing deals. Councilman Jon Baliles (son of the former governor) has raised substantive issues about Mayor Dwight Jones’ proposal to build a new baseball stadium for the Flying Squirrels in Shockoe Bottom. In particular, the analysis upon which the mayor’s proposal is based makes different assumptions about parking, a major public expense, when contrasting competing stadium locations on the Boulevard, where the current, aging stadium is located, and in Shockoe Bottom.

In announcing the proposal last month, Jones contended that putting the stadium in Shockoe Bottom would trigger significant development in Shockoe Bottom and free up space on the Boulevard for re-development. All told, he said, the project could generate up to $187 million in property and sales tax revenues over 20 years, far more than the $80 million public investment required to build the new stadium, structured parking and flood-drainage improvements.

Baliles addressed several concerns Friday in a letter to the mayor.  The Times-Dispatch then devoted major coverage to Baliles’ critique in its Saturday coverage here and here. In the main article, reporter Graham Moomaw focused on the parking issue. The mayor’s analysis of the development potential of the Boulevard site, just off Interstate 95, assumes that placing the ballpark there would consume 29 acres of available land for the parking lot, leaving only 32 acres for development. Yet the Shockoe Bottom plan calls for building structured parking for the stadium on only seven acres.

If the Shockoe location can support structured parking on seven acres, why couldn’t the Boulevard location? After all, the city’s vision is to develop 960,000 square feet of office space, 780,000 square feet of retail and entertainment, plus medical offices, a conference center, a hotel and 1,048 apartments on the Boulevard.  Says Baliles: “You could have a parking deck that served the business world during the day and sports fans, shoppers and residents in the evening.” Could that mixed-use development not support structured parking in the same way that mixed-use development in Shockoe Bottom could?

The question goes to the heart of the Boulevard proposal: If structured parking were feasible on the Boulevard, that would free up an extra 20 acres or so for re-development, making the location far more lucrative for the city than under the surface-parking scenario.

Chief Administrative Officer Byron C. Marshall told Moomaw that the city had considered a parking deck on the Boulevar but concluded that it would have to build the deck itself at substantial cost or wait for a private developer to do it. The latter option would likely push out of reach the city’s goal of building the new stadium by 2016. “At full build-out,” he said, “if you could get an office tenant and even maybe a mixed-use tenant in that southwest portion, you could, at that point, use less acreage. … The question is when? Who? That’s conceptual. We actually have a concrete plan for the Bottom. That’s the difference.”

Excuse me, but the mayor’s plan calls for building a stadium in Shockoe at substantial cost, too. If the stadium is to be built by 2016 in order to keep the Flying Squirrels happy, the city will have to build the structured parking either way. What’s missing from the mayor’s analysis is an apples-to-apples comparison of the Boulevard and Shockoe Bottom sites using the same parking scenario.

Perhaps an apples-to-apples analysis still would show Shockoe to be the preferred. I’m totally OK with that. Unlike an apparent majority of Richmond metro residents, whom polls show favor the current stadium location, I really don’t care. I just want to maximize the return on investment of taxpayer dollars. City Hall needs to analyze comparable scenarios for both locations. Then let the best site win. Kudos to Baliles for digging into the numbers and demanding answers.

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8 responses to “New Questions about the Shockoe Stadium Proposal”

  1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    “If the stadium is to be built by 2016 in order to keep the Flying Squirrels happy”

    Sorry but that seems like a sentence directly from SimCity. I nearly spit up my soda when I read that.

    On a more serious note

    “I just want to maximize the return on investment of taxpayer dollars. ” It’s a stadium project, the best you can hope for in 99% of these is a reduction in the amount of money wasted (otherwise the private owner wouldn’t need public money to make the project a go).

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Perhaps another way to frame the nearly spit up soda is: What is really going on here, really?

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Good skepticism here. One wonders:

    (1) How Shockoe would work alone; it can’t until they develop Boulevard but few details on the former and absolutely none on the latter.

    (2) Parking is a big issue in the Bottom. It is not in the Boulevard

    (3) Baseball fans tend to be suburbanites. Boulevard, located near in the intersect of I 95 and 64, is an easy drive. You can dream on all you want about public transit and urbanism but the fact is for the many years, the fans will come by car from the burbs. Sorry, New Urbanists.

    (4) Dwight Jones has not explained where the parking in the Bottom would come from.

    (5) Jones has not explained who, exactly, will preserve and pay some kind of expanded tribute to the slavery history i.e. Lumpkins Jail.

    (6) The Bottom — not in the farmer’s market, not int he train station not in anything. It’s a pleasant, cute place. Fine.

    (7) It’s time to accept the fact that in some ways, Suburbanism, or “New Suburbanism” is coming back. Why not move the Squirrels to Short Pump? Who says everything has to be in Richmond? The Atlanta Braves are situating the Braves in another ‘burb, perhaps better located. We don’t exactly have a Yankees Stadium, or Wrigley Field worth keeping.

    (8) Time to deal with reality, folks.

  3. this is tangentially related:

    No tailgating at Super Bowl

    ” The tailgating news came during the committee’s Monday news conference regarding transportation and safety for the Feb. 2, 2014, game.

    There will be only three ways for the expected 80,000 ticket holders to get to the game. The committee will charter buses called the Fan Express, which will cost $51 and pick up and drop off passengers at nine locations around the region. Fans can also take N.J. Transit to the MetLife Stadium stop or be dropped off by vehicles that must have parking passes.

    There will be fewer than 13,000 parking spots available for fans.”


    ” “You cannot walk to the Super Bowl,” Kelly said. “You can get your hotel to drop you off at one of the New Jersey Transit locations or get the shuttle to take you to a Fan Express location, but you cannot walk.”

    Ultimately, Kelly said he expects that between 70 and 80 percent of all ticket holders will get to the game via public transportation or shuttle bus. There will be 1,600 parking spots for buses.”

    this sounds like a real bummer ….

    it’s those damn central planners at it again!

  4. C. Wayne Taylor Avatar
    C. Wayne Taylor

    The use of parking decks at the Boulevard site is mentioned at
    City Hall Review: “One or two parking decks easily could be positioned to serve both the stadium and the commercial uses.”

  5. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I just do not see how they will be able to make the bottom plan work. It’s too tight, and I would think the drainage issues alone would kill it.
    I do agree however, that any proposals need to be compared using similar circumstances.

    And Larry…WHAT? Tailgating is the only reason to go to a football game.

  6. The article said ‘… the city will have to build the structured parking either way’. I thought the parking deck in the bottom was private construction. Isn’t the city only building the stadium and infrastructure changes for flooding/traffic? I do agree with the conclusion of this article. Having two plans to compare would make this “vote” much more transparent.

    @larryg: How is ‘no tailgating’ at the Super Bowl even closely related to this?

    @Peter Galuszka:

    1) Agreed; wish we had more concrete details on the Boulevard.
    2) Parking is not the issue, traffic is. And if Baliles wants to build a parking deck on the Boulevard, the issue of ‘escaping the parking deck’ in the bottom is not relevant to the locations anymore. Seems he agree that surface parking is a waste.
    3) Bottom is closer to I-95 and I-64E. Bottom is also closer for Chesterfield residents, and easier to access via Downtown Expressway. But yes, Boulevard is closer to I-64W by about 3 miles.
    4) What? Hasn’t this been explained? New parking deck + access to existing parking decks, all within a 1/4mi walk?
    5) No, he has not because the funding isn’t secured yet. But this is private money here, not public, so long as it’s secured
    6) I don’t get your point here?
    7) Maybe because Short Pump is in Henrico? And Henrico and Chesterfield have both said they will not support a new stadium?

    So much FUD on both sides of this proposal. That’s fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

    1. re: ” @larryg: How is ‘no tailgating’ at the Super Bowl even closely related to this?”

      parking… lack of.. no structured… no extra space for tailgating… and so little parking that the major way to get to the stadium is by shuttle bus

      AND … they will NOT ALLOW walking to stadium … BECAUSE they know if they do what people will do about parking in the vicinity…

      so … it’s a stadium in an urban area that is ‘tight’ similar to this one.

      FUD – yes.. in so many issues these days….

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