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Richmond School Board Members Question Navy Hill Development’s Impacts

Richmond School Board members Scott Barlow, Kenya Gibson and Jonathan Young during a July 2019 meeting.
Richmond School Board members Scott Barlow, Kenya Gibson and Jonathan Young during a July 2019 meeting. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)  

Richmond’s school board members received a presentation on the Navy Hill development during Monday night’s meeting.

Susan Eastridge, a developer for the project, insisted that the project “brings needed revenues into the city over time, and can create sustainable revenue streams that can go to the school district.”

She pointed to Mayor Levar Stoney’s pledge to direct 50% of excess revenue to the school district, after bond repayments. The pledge has no legal bearing, however, since resolutions aren’t legally enforceable.

School board members like Jonathan Young questioned the development’s projected costs and revenue projections. Eastridge says the new arena is estimated to attract 500,000 to 600,000 people every year, compared to the 350,000 attendees the existing Coliseum saw last year. 

“I have as much faith in those numbers as I believe there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow,” Young said.

He also questioned the positive impact of the development on the district because of the city’s 400-500 million loan repayment over the next 21-30 years.

School board member Cheryl Burke asked whether or not the housing will be affordable for families and teachers.

Eastridge said it will be “heavily workforce,” although developers have reported to the city that the development will not include any three-bedroom units but will be limited to one and two bedroom units.

School board member Kenya Gibson asked why the school board didn’t get a vote on the development deal, and board member Scott Barlow asked about the impacts on state education funding for the district.

The development isn’t expected to start generating revenue for the city for at least the first 5-10 years.