Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Monroe Park Conservancy, VCU and major donors break ground on $6 million Monroe Park renovation

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones today joined representatives from the Monroe Park Conservancy, Virginia Commonwealth University and major donors to break ground on a $6 million extensive renovation of Monroe Park.

"This park has a long history and has always served as an important hub in our city," stated Mayor Jones. "Working in partnership with the Monroe Park Conservancy group and VCU to restore the park’s luster is an opportunity that we’ve embraced with great enthusiasm. We thank all of those contributing to help us reach our goal for the park’s restoration, building on our efforts to provide beautiful open and sustainable spaces that improve Richmond communities."

The park will be closed during renovation beginning Monday, Nov. 14, and the work is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete. The project will include extensive infrastructure upgrades to underground sewer, gas, water and electrical systems. The first five-week phase of construction will focus on arbor care. Park light poles and fixtures will be removed, stored and recycled in other parks. Park benches will be removed and saved.

When the 8-acre park reopens, it will be fully sustainable, with a goal of mitigating water runoff, and will include the installation of LED lighting and native plants.

“Monroe Park will continue to be a place that is welcoming to everyone — a green, urban living room” said Alice Massie, president of the Monroe Park Conservancy that has led the renovation effort.

Supporters said a revitalized Monroe Park will be a vibrant, urban oasis for nearby residents and for VCU faculty, staff and students. VCU has committed to provide maintenance of the renovated park.

“We are very excited to work with our partners from the City of Richmond, the private sector and the Monroe Park Conservancy to bring this project to fruition and ensure its success,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “Richmond is our home and Monroe Park is a major asset for our city and for our university.”

The renovation of Richmond’s oldest city park was made possible through the successful completion of a multi-year $3 million private fundraising campaign. Altria and the Dominion Foundation each provided $500,000 in support of the project.

“Monroe Park has been a landmark in the heart of the City of Richmond for generations,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion chairman, president and CEO. “This green space, once renovations are complete, will add to the vitality of the community, benefiting students, nearby residents, businesses and visitors to downtown. Dominion is privileged to play a role in reconstruction of this historic urban setting.”

Also, a major gift from The Beirne Carter Foundation will support sustainability and safety improvements at the park.

Under a 30-year lease agreement that City Council approved in March 2014, the non-profit Conservancy will operate the park following the City’s completion of the renovation. The Conservancy will steward the park in a partnership agreement with the city, ensuring that it remains a public park with access for all. This is a common practice nationally, including Central Park in New York and Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Richmond’s Maymont Park operates through a similar arrangement.

Organizations that support the homeless, including Homeward and the United Way urge those interested in providing food or clothing to the homeless or those in need of food or clothing to call 2-1-1 for assistance while the park is closed. 

History of Monroe Park
Established in 1851, Monroe Park is Richmond’s oldest park and one of the capital city’s most culturally and environmentally significant open spaces. Once a state fairground and later a military encampment, the registered historic park now provides passage and respite to VCU students, as well as residents of Carver, Oregon Hill, and the Fan.

Forming the western edge of the City’s downtown grid, Monroe Park is bounded by Belvidere Street to the east, Main Street to the south, and Laurel and Franklin Streets to the west and north. It is often considered the front yard of Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and the newly-renovated Altria Theater.  VCU’s expansion of the Business and Engineering Schools and nearby dormitories has significantly altered the context and use of the Park. Such a shift offers an unprecedented opportunity to transform the Park into a vibrant, urban oasis.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mayor Jones Welcomes CoStar Group to Downtown

Mayor Dwight C. Jones welcomed CoStar Group to downtown Richmond during a press conference held with Governor Terry McAuliffe today.  The Governor announced that CoStar Group, the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics and online marketplaces, will invest $8.17 million in a new research and software development center in Richmond. Virginia successfully competed against states in the Southeast and Midwest for the project, which will create 732 new jobs and have a total economic impact of $250 million.

“We are thrilled to welcome CoStar Group to Virginia and to our capital city,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at the event. “This will be a transformational project for the City of Richmond and the greater metropolitan area, bringing a new, high-profile corporate partner and more than 700 high-paying jobs. With our outstanding technology infrastructure and our unparalleled higher education system, the Commonwealth is a hub for the IT sector and the perfect home for CoStar’s research operation. Today is a huge milestone for Richmond and for our efforts to diversify and build a new Virginia economy.”

“The fact that CoStar, the world’s leader in commercial real estate information, has chosen the City of Richmond as the location of its new research headquarters, says a lot about the quality of our workforce and our real estate,” said City of Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones. “The company’s 732 new, full-time employees, working in the heart of our central business district along the James River, will bring additional life to an increasingly thriving downtown. We look forward to partnering with CoStar through our Office of Community Wealth Building workforce programs and our multi-modal transportation initiatives to immediately promote new, high-quality jobs to our city’s residents that will be available early calendar year 2017.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Richmond and the Greater Richmond Partnership to secure the project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved a $4 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund (COF) to assist Richmond with the project. CoStar Group is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

For the $4 million grant the City receives from the COF, the City will provide the required local match through local Enterprise Zone incentives, public transportation improvements, installation of a bike share station, Business Professional Occupational License (BPOL) tax relief, and job training and recruitment assistance.

“CoStar is excited to become an essential business partner to the city of Richmond and the state of Virginia,” said Andrew Florance, CoStar Founder and Chief Executive Officer.  “This is an opportunity that allows us to expand our research and software development capabilities in a city that provides a highly educated labor pool, a superior quality of life for our employees and a culture that aligns to our business model.”

Founded in 1987, CoStar Group is the leading provider of commercial real estate information and marketplaces combining research, technology and powerful marketing to connect commercial real estate professionals with the data, insights, networking and leads they need to succeed. Their suite of brands includes CoStar, LoopNet, LandsofAmerica and BizBuySell to name a few, and together it serves as the primary source of business intelligence and communities that fuel the real estate industry. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., CoStar maintains offices throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Canada with a staff of approximately 3,000 worldwide, including the industry’s largest professional research organization. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mayor Jones, Flying Squirrels, VCU Announce Agreement to Keep Minor League Baseball in RVA - Agreement opens final stage of plans for new RVA ballpark

Mayor Dwight C. Jones, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and Virginia Commonwealth University said today that the minor league baseball team intends to commit to stay in Richmond for a minimum of 30 years once a new ballpark is constructed, according to a newly signed agreement. The memorandum of understanding will guide the final stages of planning for a new ballpark in Richmond to be used by VCU and the Flying Squirrels.

“This is a significant step forward for baseball in the Richmond region,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “More importantly, it advances our efforts for economic development along the Boulevard to generate revenue for schools and city services, consistent with our longstanding goals for Richmond.”

The agreement continues progress that began in April when the parties announced a new partnership to maintain minor league baseball for the region. The partnership was energized by the City’s planning for economic development of 60 acres of city-owned North Side land bounded by North Boulevard and Hermitage Road. That effort included extensive public comment, with more than 6,000 people participating.

The agreement includes the following terms:

Location: The parties anticipate that the location of the new baseball stadium will be in close proximity to the current facility (The Diamond) in the City of Richmond, but off the city-owned 60-acre parcel.

Cost: Construction is estimated in a range of approximately $50 million to $60 million. As primary users of the new ballpark, the Flying Squirrels and VCU will be major contributors. Annual rent paid by the Flying Squirrels will be “approximately $1 million, or roughly four times their current annual rent at the Diamond.

Design: The new ballpark will be able to accommodate non-athletic events such as concerts, festivals, or other community events, and it will be substantially similar in size, quality, programming, and amenities to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.

The MOU was signed by VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin and by Lou DiBella, President of Navigators Baseball LLC, which does business as the Richmond Flying Squirrels. The Flying Squirrels maintain their commitment to remain in Richmond in a new ballpark and reaffirm that they have no desire to look elsewhere. 

“This is an exciting next step toward improving quality of life and driving economic development for the entire region while at the same time advancing VCU's athletic programs,” said VCU President Michael Rao. 

“The Flying Squirrels are excited by the progress and spirit of cooperation that is evidenced by this new agreement. We look forward to playing our games in a new ballpark, as tenants in a Boulevard area that is being economically developed to best serve the interests of our Greater Richmond community, neighbors and fans,” added Lou DiBella.

The agreement reflects the current status of ongoing discussions among parties that may include the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Richmond and other localities, private developers and investors, among others. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

City of Richmond Announces SmithGroupJJR as Project leader for the development of the Lumpkin’s Jail Site

At a special ceremony marking the kick-off of the development of the Lumpkin’s Jail Site, Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced the selection of a team led by SmithGroupJJR to be awarded the contract to develop the site. The City of Richmond signed a $1.4 million contract today to engage the team’s services.

“The team led by SmithGroupJJR has a depth of experience in museum organization and development, museum building design, archaeology, historic preservation, landscape architecture, exhibit design and community engagement…you name it, they’ve got it,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “SmithGroupJJR was recognized just a few weeks ago as an integral member of the design team of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which just opened in Washington, DC. Their accomplishments have been recognized both inside and outside of the United States.”

It was also announced today that Lonnie G. Bunch, III, will serve as a scholarly advisor to the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site project. Dr. Bunch is the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Lumpkin’s Jail was a slave-trading complex located in the Shockoe Bottom district of Richmond, Virginia. It operated from the 1830s until the end of the American Civil War. The initial Lumpkin’s Jail Archeological Assessment was completed in 2006. Following the discovery of artifacts, a second phase of excavation was undertaken in 2007 – 2008. The City of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia have since funded advancing the Lumpkin’s Jail Site towards an interpretive and reflective site, the services for which SmithGroupJJR were contracted for today.

Hal Davis, SmithGroupJJR’s principal-in-charge, cited the Richmond project as an invaluable opportunity, something that can help all of us heal.

“We are humbled to be selected to explore and foster the definition of this significant and meaningful project,” Davis said.

Click here for more about the SmithGroupJJR team.

Friday, September 30, 2016

City Breaks Ground for the Maggie L. Walker Memorial Plaza

Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Governor Terry McAuliffe, the City's CAO Selena Cuffee-Glenn, members of Richmond City Council, and the City’s Public Art Commission (PAC) joined together on Thursday September 29 to break ground on the memorial plaza commemorating Maggie L. Walker at Broad Street and Adams Street.

“This is a long-overdue recognition,” said Mayor Jones. “Through this memorial in honor of Maggie L. Walker and the creation of this new public space to celebrate her legacy, we will be reminded of Maggie Walker’s vision, courage, and determination and her contribution to our country’s history.”

The PAC and the Site Selection Team selected the location for the memorial plaza on Broad Street, and Richmond City Council approved the site as it serves as a main corridor in the city and an important entryway into the Jackson Ward community, where Maggie L. Walker resided. The Maggie L. Walker monument will become a destination point in Richmond’s vibrant downtown and further Richmond’s reputation in the public art realm.

The memorial plaza is expected to be completed in the spring of 2017.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mayor Jones Applauds Maggie Walker Memorial Plaza Approval

The Richmond City Planning Commission voted unanimously today to approve the construction of a memorial plaza around a commemorative statue in honor of Richmond native and historic leader Maggie L. Walker. The unanimous vote marks the completion of the memorial plaza approval process which is needed to move the project forward.

“Seeing this effort cross this hurdle is very gratifying,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “The vision for the Maggie L. Walker statue and this project has been under discussion for quite some time. I am pleased to have had a hand in making sure this happens. This is right for our city, our state and our country.”

Richmond City Council voted unanimously in 2010 to erect the statue at the corner of Broad and N. Adams streets in downtown Richmond. The Public Art Commission and Planning Commission approved the conceptual design for the memorial and public art components in April 2016. The plaza design was approved by the Public Art Commission last week, and the Planning Commission’s action today completes the approval process for the plaza.

“We can now move forward to create this memorial to Maggie Walker,” said sculpture Toby Mendez, who won the contract for the design. “This will be a permanent statement that will send forward her story and legacy to future generations. To have a role in telling her story is the best a sculptor can pray for.”

Maggie L. Walker was not only a Richmond icon as a leader in entrepreneurship, education and advocacy for the African American community, but she held national prominence as a trailblazer. The City’s Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, who serves on the Planning Commission stated, “Richmond will be on the right side of history with the approval.”

“This is a long-overdue recognition,” continued Mayor Jones. “This new public space in our downtown presenting this august leader to our residents and visitors will further Richmond’s reputation in the public art realm and with respect to our recognition of African-American history.”

The statue will receive final Public Art Commission and City Planning Commission approval in August. The project is expected to begin this fall with an anticipated completion timeframe in the spring of 2017.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Joint Statement From Mayor Dwight Jones and Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham

Mayor Dwight C. Jones and Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham issued the following statement today:

We should all be deeply troubled by the shocking events of the last few days, to include the questionable killings of two black men by police officers and the subsequent killings of five police officers in Dallas, Texas.

The community and police grieve together this morning. We offer our condolences to all of the families and communities and to law enforcement professionals that have been impacted by these tragic events.

There is simply no excuse and no justification for what we’ve all seen transpire. And it is up to all of us to speak up and to come together to make sure events like these do not occur in any community.

Everyone, including police, has a right to feel valued and respected. Community protest in the face of injustice is understandable. But police should not be the target. Rather, we must target bad policing where it exists and work to bring about change in that regard.

We are grateful in Richmond to have strong community and police relations. We can and do care about both Black lives and the lives of our police officers. Indeed, we care about all lives. At the end of the day, everyone has a right to expect to go home safely and no one should be fearing for their lives.

We stand united today to say that we will work against these events generating any kind of divisiveness in our community.  We stand united today to say that we will be vigilant in working together for strong communities.