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VUU President Who Signed Pro-Coliseum Column Nominated To Commission Vetting The Deal

(Roberto Roldan/VPM)
(Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Virginia Union University President Hakim Lucas has been nominated to the commission charged with vetting the Richmond Coliseum redevelopment deal. But last year, Lucas signed his name to a column that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch calling the deal “a good investment.” 

Last week, VPM reported that the op-ed, which claimed to be authored by Lucas and Virginia State University President  Makola Abdullah, was actually ghostwritten by the developer NH District Corp. Several of other “contributors” were eventually added to the online version, including Dominion CEO Tom Farrell. Farrell heads the NH District Corp. Board of Directors.

Richmond City Councilman Michel Jones, 9th District, nominated Lucas to the Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission at a meeting Monday night. He said the nomination was about increasing diversity on the commission.

“Why are people so worried about diversity? Why are people worried about the input of someone representing a [Historically Black College],” Jones said.

Seven candidates had already been nominated by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the commission when Jones pushed to add Lucas. Of those seven candidates, three are African American and three are women.

The advisory commission will be tasked with vetting the underlying assumptions of the $1.5 billion redevelopment deal. As part of the deal, the city will take out $350 million in bonds to pay for a new downtown arena. It will be paid back by any new tax revenue from an 80-block special taxing zone covering most of Downtown Richmond.

Second District City Councilwoman Kim Gray is opposing the nomination. She questions whether Lucas can remain unbiased, given his past endorsement of the project.

“If he’s a part of the group that’s pushing the development forward, then it’s not appropriate for him to serve on this commission,” she said.

A spokesperson for VUU did not immediately return a request for comment.

On Monday, Gray pushed to approve the seven candidates already nominated to the commission, excluding Lucas. That proposal died in a 5-4 vote. 

Richmond City Council is expected to take a final vote on the nominees at its September 23 meeting.