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Former Navy Hill Developers Eye Henrico County For New Arena

A conceptual rendering of the proposed GreenCity project in northern Henrico County.
A conceptual rendering of the proposed GreenCity project in northern Henrico County. (Courtesy of GreenCity Partners, LLC)

The developers behind Richmond’s failed Navy Hill project are taking their plans for a new arena to Henrico County.

Developers Susan Eastridge and Michael Hallmark announced plans on Tuesday to build a 17,000 square foot arena at the former headquarters of Best Products, northeast of East Parham Road’s interchange with Interstate 95. The $2.3 billion development, known as GreenCity, would also have 2,400 housing units, 280,000 square feet of retail space and two hotels. 

County Manager John A. Vithoulkas endorsed the proposed development in a statement.

“The arena will put this region back on the entertainment map,” Vithoulkas said. “It also will provide tremendous benefits to our county while creating no financial risk to our taxpayers.”

The GreenCity development will earn its namesake by integrating extensive parks, trails and other green spaces into the project. The former Best Products headquarters building would be renovated to meet sustainability standards that provide net-positive energy and water. 

Speaking at a press conference held at the site Tuesday morning, Hallmark said GreenCity would be a “next generation” community.

“GreenCity will provide an alternative for residents who want to live and work in better planned and more diverse communities,” Hallmark said. 

Unlike the failed development in Richmond, the GreenCity proposal does not utilize taxpayer money from outside of the development.

In the Navy Hill project, developers had proposed using future tax revenue from an 80-block zone in Downtown Richmond to finance a new arena on the site of the now-defunct Richmond Coliseum. In return, the developers planned more than $1 billion in new development in the surrounding neighborhood, historically called Navy Hill. That plan was rejected by Richmond City Council back in February, with some council members citing concerns about the project’s potential impact on school funding and a lack of transparency. 

The GreenCity proposal would not use a large special financing district. The developers say they’ll ask the county to create a community development authority, which would take out bonds to finance the arena construction. But those bonds would be paid back over 30 years by the new tax revenue generated from the GreenCity development itself. The tax revenue from the surrounding properties would not be impacted.

Once the bonds are paid back, the developers estimate GreenCity would generate approximately $20 million in new tax revenue for Henrico County. The developers will also pay $6.2 million to acquire the land, which is what the county paid for it back in 2011.

Reacting to the news, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s Chief of Staff Lincoln Saunders said the city will continue to pursue other economic opportunities. 

“Obviously, Mayor Stoney believed an arena-anchored, mixed-use redevelopment was a great opportunity to redevelop downtown and generate revenues and benefits for the City,” Saunders said. “Henrico’s announcement today shows that this vision had merit - and the Mayor wishes them well and he’s glad that the region will benefit.”

The GreenCity developers will submit formal plans for the property early next year. Henrico officials say they’ll conduct a detailed review of the development plans and financial projections.