Thursday, June 30, 2011

Major Jones Accepts fDi Best Small City of the Future Award

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today accepted the Foreign Direct Investment (fDi) magazine Best Small American City of the Future award for the city of Richmond, during the fDi American Cities of the Future 2011/12 awards ceremony in Washington, DC. Joining the Mayor in accepting the award was city’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Economic and Community Development Peter Chapman, city’s Director of Economic and Community Development Lee Downey and the President and CEO of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce Kim Scheeler.

Mayor Jones said, “This is a timely award as it not only reassures us that we are moving in the right direction, it also validates the recent CNBC ranking of Virginia being the top state in the nation to do business. It is a reflection of the dynamic local economy of Virginia’s capital city, as we have embraced economic development as a core foundational service and we are committed to maintaining an international focus.”

“It also bears emphasis that our urban character contributes to our economic growth: we have livable, walkable neighborhoods that help attract and retain an eclectic, educated and diverse workforce. Our plan for success includes partnering with our nationally renowned universities, developing innovative business programs that enhance our competitive position, investing in infrastructure to support initiatives including a multi-modal transportation plan, and making strategic investments to develop tomorrow’s workforce,” said Mayor Jones.

“This awards ceremony recognized places from around the United States and the globe, and we are proud to see the city of Richmond named the best small city of the future out of that type of competition,” said Scheeler. “The rest of the world is starting to find out what the Fortune 1000 companies located here already know; that Richmond is the best small city to do business, has one of the best small city strategies, and is tops in business friendliness.”

This is the first time the city of Richmond has received this award distinction. The city also ranked third for Top Small Cities fDi Strategy and fifth overall for Small Cities Business Friendliness. According to the judging panel, the city of Richmond and Huntsville (Alabama) had the best fDi strategy among small cities. The rankings are based on each city’s population range, with small cities being in between 100,000 and 250,000 residents.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mayor Successfully Negotiates $60.3 Million Repayment to City

~RMA could return funds to the city before year end~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today announced the impending repayment of monies to the city in the amount of $60.3 million from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority (RMA). The RMA is an independent authority and political subdivision that was created in 1966. It was formed originally to build and maintain a toll expressway system to serve the Richmond metropolitan area. Its members include Richmond as well as Chesterfield and Henrico counties. In its formative years, the city of Richmond was the only member of the partnership to contribute land and provide financial support to RMA.

“There are many things this administration has been working to set right for the city of Richmond. Where our financial picture is concerned, the city’s financial operation has been structurally unbalanced in many ways and we've been working to correct things like moving to twice a year tax collections and eliminating the need for revenue anticipation notes for example. Another matter that has been unattended to for some time pertains to millions of dollars that was lent to the RMA by the city of Richmond,” explained Mayor Jones. “I asked my team to explore how and when this money could be returned to the city and the RMA Board has chosen to act on our request.”

The RMA voted unanimously today for the return of monies owed to the city of Richmond in the amount of $60.3 million. It is anticipated that the funds would become available in November of this year once the RMA issues the bonds necessary to pay off the subordinated debt owed to the city.

“We’ve been working with the RMA for more than a year on a way to eliminate this outstanding debt owed the city,” said CAO Byron Marshall. “This plan won’t hurt the credit standing of the RMA, won’t increase tolls, and will return to the city some badly needed funds that can be directed toward some of Richmond's immediate and future needs."

This one-time money will go to the city’s General Fund. Citing the tremendous social and economic costs associated with the history of how these funds came to be owed the city, particularly as it relates to how the expressway affected the neighborhoods it bisects, Mayor Jones said he wanted the city to use this opportunity wisely and prudently. “As we consider the use of these funds, there are some guidelines I feel we should be governed by. These funds can help to repair some of the issues caused by displacement of families and businesses, and can also help to move us closer to a AAA bond rating. We have the opportunity to invest wisely by doing things like getting our undesignated fund balance to 10% and paying off some of our own outstanding debt."

Initially, Richmond was the only jurisdiction to provide financial assistance or subsidies to the expressway system. Moving forward, Mayor Jones said, "We will begin working with RMA and other jurisdictions to look at a more regional approach to transportation and public transportation. As we work regionally, we must also put Richmond first and make investments that will put the city on par with our neighbors who already enjoy a AAA bond rating. Further, paying down debt will free up debt capacity for future catalytic projects and allow us to save on interest payments while we plan for those projects."

It is anticipated that the Mayor would like to focus on future projects like riverfront public space, the baseball diamond, and development that will generate a return on investment in the areas of job creation, workforce development and an enhancing the tax base.

Aside from strengthening the city’s financial picture, the Mayor also indicated an obligation to focus on social needs. “We must also consider the tremendous social cost that is connected to the history of this money, said Mayor Jones. “New roadway systems that were designed to relieve traffic congestion and increase the ease of commuters flowing in and out of the city came with a price tag of displaced residents and businesses. Massive relocations were undertaken, eminent domain laws were used to seize property and communities were torn apart. The communities impacted the most were the lower income areas and the poor.”

The Mayor indicated that he would like to see a plan developed that will make a noticeable dent in poverty in the city and focus on some longstanding concerns. “Such a plan could deal with outstanding issues like the fact that the Blackwell Hope VI development has remained unfinished since 1997, or longstanding needs of our infrastructure like the repaving of Jefferson Davis Highway which has been in disrepair for years, for example. Perhaps there are some things we can do with Creighton Court; things that can help us reduce concentrated poverty are what I’d like to see and what the City Council has asked us to focus on."

The unfinished Blackwell area has impeded the City’s ability to be successful with other projects like Choice Neighborhoods funding applications and Hope VI. Problem public housing areas like Creighton Court are a byproduct of the massive relocations that resulted from the expressway systems.

The Jones Administration will be working to prepare a detailed proposal for the use of funds that will require City Council approval. “I commend the RMA Board for doing the right thing and acting to return these monies to the city of Richmond," continued Mayor Jones. “It is now incumbent upon us to do the right thing with the planned use of these funds and I will be encouraging everyone to make the best use of this unique opportunity.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Proclamation of "Juneteenth Independence Day" in the City

Mayor Outlines Plan for $2.1 million in RRHA-held Funds

~Ordinance introduced to transfer funds back to City~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones introduced an ordinance today to transfer $2.1 million in funding being held by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) to the City's general fund. The funds represent remaining project monies from the redevelopment of the former Miller & Rhodes department store and related parcels, which was managed by RRHA for the City of Richmond.

The Jones administration had initially called for the remaining project funds to remain with RRHA in preparation for the planned purchase, on behalf of the City, of the Fan-area GRTC property. Mayor Jones wanted the city to have an active role in the future of the site because of the significant development potential. "Initial plans for directing these funds to the purchase of that site have shifted as we've acquired better and additional information with respect to the needs of that particular site," said Mayor Jones. "Additional consideration has also been given to the change in leadership at both the GRTC and the RRHA, and looking at all these factors, I believe we can better utilize these funds now, while still protecting our future interest in the development of the GRTC property."

The city's initial plans to secure the site via RRHA were to occur after site remediation, which is the responsibility of GRTC. The timeline for disposition of the GRTC property has been impacted on two major fronts: compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and compliance with environmental regulations of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The site still needs to produce a corrective action plan and gain DEQ approval, which is not expected to be completed until mid-2013. The extended timeframe provides an opportunity to work more directly with GRTC in a streamlined fashion.

In explaining his concerns about the change in leadership, Mayor Jones offered that, "We've had some successes with RRHA lately, like the forward movement we've experienced with Dove Court for example. We've recently gotten approval for low-income housing tax credits for that site and Dove Court is a perfect example of what can be achieved when a housing authority has a focused agenda with a clear direction. At this time, I want to unburden our housing authority with this more complex matter, especially in light of its reduced capacity for real estate development resulting from the agency's changes."

The city will ultimately have an agreement with GRTC setting forth the goals and objectives for future redevelopment of the site. It is expected that those goals and objectives will be incorporated into an eventual development agreement. No specific plans for the site have been determined at this time.

The transfer is being proposed to support comprehensive economic and community development strategies. A portion of the funds will be targeted to business attraction, expansion and retention initiatives. The Mayor's ordinance also calls for investment in the Broad Street corridor and ArtBusiness Richmond as well as the East End/Nine Mile Road/25th Street redevelopment plan. Funding is proposed for an affordable housing trust fund; the city's Workforce Development Pipeline training program; a feasibility analysis, as called for by City Council, for the City Stadium property and the GRTC property; and funding for improvements to outdoor sports-related projects for advancing high school athletics throughout the city of Richmond.

"I believe the use of these funds to enhance priority community revitalization and quality-of-life programs, initiatives and activities is a prudent use of these available funds and I'm hoping for Council's support of this effort," said Mayor Jones.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tompkins/Ballard Joint Venture Recommended for Jail Construction Project

Today, Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced the selection of Tompkins/Ballard Joint Venture as the recommended vendor for the design and construction of the new city jail. The firm was selected for the $135 million project having received the highest overall ratings of four firms competing for the work.

"Technical design, value-added enhancements, life cycle cost, price and minority business involvement were areas where the Tompkins/Ballard Joint Venture scored highly," Mayor Jones said. Citing extensive experience building correctional facilities in urban areas, Mayor Jones noted that the joint venture also proposed the most creative and flexible design. “Tompkins/Ballard had the only proposal that did not have a phased approach which would have required relocation of jail inmates,” said Mayor Jones.

Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody noted, "The proposed design meets the core needs of the Sheriff’s Department, especially in that they propose a single-phase construction which would not require relocating inmates prior to or during construction. We are reshaping our public safety strategy into a more comprehensive effort focusing on human outcomes, and the new facility and the design components support that vision."

Tompkins/Ballard was the only proposal that did not exceed the $134.6 million budget appropriation and that stayed within the project budget. The proposal came in $11.5 million under budget, while all other proposals ranged from a low of $5.4 million over the project budget to a high of $18 million over the project budget.

Mayor Jones cited the commitment to minority business (MBE) and emerging small business (ESB) participation as another key component of the Tompkins/Ballard proposal. A project goal of 40% has been called for. Tompkins/Ballard's proposal exceeds the established goal and proposes 50.2% MBE/ESB inclusion. Locally-owned T.K. Davis Construction, Inc. is scheduled to receive 21% of the contract. Twelve other local area MBE firms are part of the team with nine of those located in the city of Richmond.

As recently as 2006, a Jail Commission recommended that a new jail was needed for the city of Richmond. An initial proposal presented to Mayor Jones in 2009 called for a 2,000-bed jail at an estimated cost exceeding $200 million. However, Mayor Jones called for a smaller facility citing his interest in working for alternatives to incarceration, options for non-violent offenders and proper placement for persons with mental illness.

After analysis and review, plans now call for a facility to be located at the current jail site with a capacity rated of 1,032 beds. The total projected cost of the project is about $135 million, rather than the 2,000 bed, $200 million facility that was originally suggested.

Mayor Jones noted that the city has begun its comprehensive review of alternative strategies. Reviews have shown that as many as 400 people in the jail population likely belonged in another setting or required other services, other than being held at the city jail.

“I am pleased that stakeholders were able to work together to agree that we could actually reach for and achieve different outcomes for our city. A smaller, more efficient jail is in everyone's best interest, and will provide for more humane treatment of inmates; better medical and educational services for the offender population; better conditions for the employees and visitors; and will cost taxpayers less money in the long run,” said Mayor Jones.

Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring stated, "This new jail will move the city toward meaningful improvements in the administration of justice in our city. I urge the city to continue the momentum that has been shown by the Jones Administration in moving the jail project forward."

The city has also worked to engage the community and to address concerns raised by the Eastview Community regarding aesthetics and the neighborhood impact of a correctional facility continuing to be located in the area.

“We are being very intentional about our efforts to improve the quality of life in the areas surrounding the jail,” said Mayor Jones. An action plan is being developed with the community that will focus on strategies for critical issues affecting the area. Some efforts to date include:

Acquiring properties for rehabilitation and sale - $175,000 was included in the FY 2012 budget for this purpose.

Demolishing dilapidated properties – this is an ongoing effort.

Improving poorly maintained public property - pro-active Code enforcement will be utilized rather than just complaint-driven.

The old Richmond Nursing Home on Cool Lane will be used as a community resources center – $1.6 million was included in the recently approved annual city budget for this purpose as approved by City Council.

A teen violence prevention program will be funded to operate at Armstrong High School starting next school year.

Now that the Tompkins/Ballard joint venture has been named as the recommended firm, City Council must approve the Comprehensive Agreement that will be introduced by ordinance on Monday, June 13. The City Administration is asking for approval by the end of July in order to protect the pricing structure that has been negotiated with the selected firm.

“I feel confident that we are heading in the right direction with this recommendation,” said Mayor Jones. “This is the right development team, the right design and the right price and I’m hopeful that the project will move forward. Our city needs this new jail - which I prefer to term a Justice Center - and we need it now.”

Tompkins/Ballard Joint Venture Presentation (pdf)

CAO's PPEA Presentation to City Council (pdf)