Tuesday, February 18, 2020

City of Richmond receives credit rating upgrade from top-three rating agency

With upgrade from Moody’s Investors Services, city’s credit ratings now highest in half century

Moody’s Investors Services has upgraded the city’s outstanding general obligation debt rating to Aa1, the next-to-highest rating possible.

This is the first general obligation upgrade received by the city since 2014. As a result of the most recent upgrade, the city’s ratings from all three of the major rating agencies fall only one notch below the highest possible rating.

With Moody’s upgrade of Richmond to Aa1, the city’s credit is in its highest standing in half a century.

“I am pleased that Wall Street continues to recognize the progress our city has made in recent years,” said Mayor Stoney. “We got our financial house in order, and it’s paying off.”

The upgrade follows Moody’s July 2018 promotion of the city’s outlook from “stable” to “positive.” Moody’s cited Richmond’s continued growth, diversified tax base, enhanced reserves and conservative budget assumptions as its reasons for the upgrade.

A city’s credit rating determines how much the locality can borrow to build capital projects such as schools, as well as the interest rate affiliated with that sum. The higher the city’s credit rating, the lower the interest rate.

“A strong credit rating from all three major agencies allows us to literally build One Richmond, a city where residents can trust their government to provide the services they rely on and the development that will keep us growing,” said Mayor Stoney.

Acting Chief Administrative Officer Lenora Reid noted, “This credit rating upgrade can be attributed to effective operations citywide and the extraordinary efforts of the city’s finance staff. We are continuing on our upward trajectory.”


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Statement from Mayor Levar M. Stoney and Councilwoman Ellen Robertson regarding tent encampment at Annie Giles Community Resource Center

Today the city held a public meeting with residents currently living outdoors on property owned by Virginia Commonwealth University adjacent to the city’s Cold Weather Overflow Shelter.
These are some of the most vulnerable members of our community. We are working with the full continuum of Richmond’s non-profit, faith-based, homelessness and social service providers to support this community and to work with each resident individually to address their unique challenges and circumstances.
While we have significant concerns for the health and safety of those living in the encampment, until a longer term solution is identified, we will work closely with these service providers to have a presence, on-site, at the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter so we can help connect those currently living there with available resources and more stable housing as quickly as possible.  
We firmly believe housing is a right, not a privilege. The city’s Homeless Strategic Plan (click here to access the presentation and report) will guide our path as we work with community stakeholders and members of City Council to find long-term solutions to homelessness in our city – from creating more shelter beds to providing healthy, safe and sustainable housing. We can and must do more.
Mayor Levar M. Stoney

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson


Monday, February 3, 2020

Mayor Levar M. Stoney statement on the Johnson Consulting third party review of the Navy Hill proposal

“This third-party report, requested and funded entirely by City Council, confirms that the proposal is ‘written in the city’s favor,’ and reaffirms our confidence that in the event of a default, ‘the city has no legal or moral obligation’ and ‘retains control if the development does not perform.’

“The report also asserts that the arena program and cost, as well as the financials associated with it, are reasonable and consistent with venues in comparable markets.

“In reviewing the proposal’s financials, the third-party consultants found that all of the mechanisms deployed, including non-recourse bonds and a stabilization fund, are either entirely appropriate or the accepted industry standard and best practice. 

“Most importantly, the project’s effect on schools’ bottom line would be ‘net neutral’ at worst, and ‘positive’ at best.

“In short, this ‘world class’ project both is consistent with national trends and offers groundbreaking, 
transformative opportunities for Richmond. In fact, these consultants hired by Council stated that our growth has been inhibited by the absence of these types of projects. 

“Armed with yet another third-party report, a report which describes the proposal as a ‘thoroughly vetted development by various outside specialty consultants’ that promises ‘tax revenue potential,’ it’s time that council members come to the table and make this work.

“As the mayor of this great city, I want to see our elected officials exhibit faith in our city’s future, not fear borne of our city’s past.”

To read the most recent third-party report funded by Richmond City Council, click here.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Mayor Stoney commits to holding RPS funding harmless in Navy Hill proposal

During the Richmond City Council Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting on January 16, Mayor Stoney’s administration committed to ensuring that RPS receives its fair share of revenue growth, including properties included in any Increment Financing Area within Navy Hill.

The administration will continue to allocate 57.76 percent of both current and delinquent real estate taxes, the amount allocated in Fiscal Year 2020, to RPS. This commitment aligns with the policy established by Councilwoman Kristen Larson’s Resolution 2019-R009, which was approved by city council on March 25, 2019.

“It is my top priority to ensure that Richmond Public Schools are the biggest beneficiary of the transformational project we’ve proposed in Navy Hill. That’s why I committed 50 percent of the approximately $1 billion in incremental revenues this project will create for RPS. But I have listened and heard Richmonders’ concerns about funding for RPS,” said Mayor Stoney. “That is why I propose we hold RPS’ funding harmless by budgeting for RPS based on the same formula City Council adopted in 2019, inclusive of properties in the increment financing area.”

As an example, under this resolution, any incremental growth in value from the Dominion Tower in downtown Richmond would still be appropriated based on this resolution, with 57.76 percent of the incremental growth in value being budgeted for Richmond Public Schools.

Current projections by the Departments of Finance and Budget and Strategic Planning, based on increases in taxable assessed values provided by the City Assessor, estimate increases in real estate tax revenues by more than $20 million in FY2021, when compared to the FY2020 adopted budget. Under current projections, the city anticipates that applying Resolution 2019-R009 to future real estate tax collections would result in an incremental $66 million for Richmond Public Schools Annual Budget by FY 2030.

“Our kids are our future, and we need to support them by proving reliable funding to enable RPS to create learning environments that help our youth thrive. Our budgets should always put the interests of our students first, and this proposal ensures they remain our top priority,” said Mayor Stoney.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mayor Stoney announces 2020 State of the City address

The annual State of the City address will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28 at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

In his third State of the City address, Mayor Stoney will both reflect on the city’s many accomplishments and outline his plans for an even brighter 2020. The speech is open to the public.

“Over the last three years, we’ve made significant progress in building One Richmond and becoming a welcoming, inclusive and equitable city through change and investments that benefit all our residents,” said Mayor Stoney. “In 2020, it’s time to acknowledge that Richmond can meet its challenges and create opportunities to lift up and empower everyone in our city.”

For those unable to attend, the State of the City will be broadcast live on the city’s Facebook page, and a complete video will be uploaded to the city’s website and YouTube channels.

Spanish interpretation and American Sign Language interpretation will both be available on site.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Mayor Stoney announces enhancements to Navy Hill project agreement, including promise of NASDAQ 100 tenant to bring 2,000 well-paying jobs to Richmond

In a press conference today, Mayor Stoney announced a series of enhancements made to the Navy Hill project agreement, including the intention of CoStar to bring 2,000 well-paying jobs to the neighborhood. 

“This interest from a NASDAQ 100 company that already has a strong presence in our city shows that with Navy Hill, Richmond can increase our tax base and bring new jobs downtown,” said Mayor Stoney. “Richmond can be competitive.”

CoStar announced in 2016 that it would headquarter its primary operations center in Richmond. The compact has infused more than $250 million into the local economy from its riverfront location at 501 South 5th Street. The company employs approximately 4,000 people worldwide.

“The Navy Hill development delivers everything a company like CoStar is looking for – access to transit, entertainment, conferencing, and new multi-family residential housing, all in a walkable and vibrant neighborhood,” said Andrew Florance, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CoStar Group. “Without the Navy Hill development as a complete-package option – we would not be talking about significantly expanding our commitment to the city of Richmond, a place where we already employ nearly 1,000 people. Richmond has so much to offer, which is why we would like to keep growing with it, providing competitive careers and compensation for residents in the process.

“Our employees have investigative, insightful minds and they think long-term. We do too. With Navy Hill, we’re able to plan not only for the growth that the company will experience in the near term – but also what the company can do 10 years from now. We’re eager to see this proposal move forward, and even more excited to potentially deepen our commitment to Richmond.”

“CoStar’s exciting announcement that Navy Hill could be home to 2,000 new employees and a 400,000 square foot office building is exactly what Navy Hill was designed to do,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Chairman of The NH Foundation Board of Directors. “With City Council approval, we can revitalize our downtown, improve economic opportunity, and make Richmond the place for innovative companies and their employees to grow, thrive and live.

“Additionally, we have been listening to residents and are working hard to address their concerns by shrinking the size of the increment financing area, building more affordable housing units in the project area, and providing the City with more revenue, more quickly. We look forward to continuing our work with Council to deliver the best project for the City, taxpayers and residents.”

“I’ve always spoken about the transformational opportunity that the Navy Hill project embodies,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “This is further proof that our downtown redevelopment isn’t just about buildings. It’s about the economic empowerment of thousands of Richmonders.”

In addition to CoStar’s promise to bring 2,000 jobs as a tenant of the proposed project, the Mayor’s also announced developments in the size of the increment finance area, the proposed transit center and affordable housing. 

House Bill 1345, introduced by Delegate Jeff Bourne, would allow Richmond to use a portion of the state sales tax revenues in the project area to pay down the debt on the new arena. If it passes, the bill will allow the administration to reduce the size of the increment finance area by more than half.

Working with the Better Housing Coalition, the Navy Hill Development Corporation has identified two opportunities within the project area to build units for residents between 40 and 60 percent annual median income. With the addition of those two sites, the proposal meets the 15% affordable housing threshold that Councilwoman Ellen Robertson and Richmond City Council requested in 2018.

The Mayor also announced that NHDC and GRTC are studying two options for the location of the proposed GRTC transit center – the original 9th street location and an additional site on Broad Street. “We want GRTC to have the opportunity to kick the tires on these options and advise us on what works best for GRTC and our residents,” said Mayor Stoney.

For more information on the Navy Hill project, contact Jeff Kelley at 804-397-9700 or jeff@kelleyus.com

Photo: CoStar/Navy Hill Preliminary Concept Design, courtesy of Capital City Partners, LLC
View the January 13, 2020 press conference here.


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mayor Stoney opens renovated Child Protective Services room at the Department of Social Services

This morning, Mayor Levar Stoney opened the newly renovated Child Protective Services Room at Richmond’s Department of Social Services. Thanks to leaders from the faith, nonprofit and business community, the room will now serve as a comforting space for young people while they await foster care placement.

The principal partners in this effort were the Virginia office of ENV Architecture and Design, local nonprofit organizations RVA Comfort Cases and Worthdays and churches in the For Richmond network. Together, the organizations’ donors and volunteers transformed the city’s multi-purpose room into four calming and age-appropriate zones for children in the custody of Richmond Social Services.

The new space is both practical and welcoming, thanks to the collaboration of the city’s partners. Second Baptist Church member Ralph Costen, owner of Costen Floors, donated and installed a new floor. Home Inspections of Virginia installed sound-proofing panels. The Soho Center donated books, and Build-A-Bear donated teddy bears.

There are currently 255 children in foster care in the City of Richmond, the highest number in the Richmond Metro Area. Each month, approximately 13 young people enter foster care in the city.

“We rallied the groups around one shared vision: supporting the most vulnerable children in our community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These partners immediately embraced that vision, and I’m grateful for their dedication.”

“Coordination allowed these valued community partners to do so much more for young people coming into care than any one organization could do on its own,” said Director of Social Services Shunda Giles. “This space will help mitigate the trauma that young people experience when they have to be separated from their family. It also doubles as a break room for our hard-working social workers, who are on the front lines caring for so many of our city’s most vulnerable residents.”

Caroline Neal, founder of Worthdays, conducted surveys of social workers and youth who have aged out of the foster care system to determine how the space could best benefit the community. “It was important to us that the renovations to this room were reflective of the people who use it on a daily basis: the hard-working staff of the agency and kids experiencing the trauma of a removal from their home. The vision that agency staff had for this room along with the wisdom of youth who have experienced a room such as this really shaped the renovations.”

Second Baptist Church, Area 10 Faith Community, Movement Church and LUX Church played key roles in the project. “We now have 10 churches that are partnering with Richmond City DSS throughout the year to support social workers and birth families, recruit and retain foster parents and mentor youth who are aging out of foster care,” said For Richmond Co-Director Anna Shenk. “The need is great, and we invite others to join us in this important work.”

Area 10 Faith Community Connections Pastor Topher Lytle said, “Our church has been committed to addressing the foster care crisis for years, but we’ve never done anything on this scale with the Department of Social Services. We are grateful to be part of this team effort and look forward to doing even more in the future.”

“We are so grateful to be able to supply our signature Comfort Cases, which include age specific items like blankets, books, plush toys and new pajamas,” said Lauren Cash, the leadership coordinator for RVA Comfort Cases. The organization will also be stocking and organizing key supplies like diapers, clothing and blankets.

Architect Whitney Campbell of ENV Virginia, a Richmond City foster parent, shared how significant it was for her to be able to marry her passion for fostering with her architecture and design business. “When I learned about the project through my church’s involvement in For Richmond, I knew immediately that I wanted to help. I’m passionate about caring for kids in foster care and I’m passionate about good design, so it was only natural that that my firm, ENV, would be involved in this important effort.”

Mayor Stoney highlighted that there are opportunities to care for children in foster care throughout the year. “Not everyone is called to foster, but we are all called to care. All of these organizations present an opportunity to get involved and give back,” said Mayor Stoney. “This collaboration gets back to what it’s all about: ensuring every child in our city knows they’re heard, seen and loved.”