Thursday, September 24, 2009

City Restructures Economic and Community Development Departments

Office of Real Estate Services is also part of change

City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron C. Marshall, along with Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) for Economic and Community Development, Peter H. Chapman, put forth a restructuring plan today that will enable local government to pursue a more comprehensive and strategic approach to economic and community development. "We are announcing the first of several organizational changes that are designed to make the Richmond City Government a much more effective facilitator of both economic development and community revitalization," Marshall said. "The Mayor has asked for a more competent, responsive and technically proficient administration and I believe the changes being put forth will bring about many of the operational efficiencies he is looking for."

Central to the changes being announced is the consolidation of the City's Office of Real Estate Services into a proposed Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). The Office of Real Estate Services, which has been managing the acquisition, disposition, and leasing of city-owned real estate, will become an important division within DECD. This will allow DECD to fully draw upon and better leverage the city's valuable real estate assets. It is also proposed that the Department of Community Development be renamed to the Department of Planning (DOP).

"This restructuring will create a more robust and interdisciplinary agency that is fully equipped to undertake a more aggressive redevelopment agenda for Richmond. This approach will help us grow by design and not by default," said Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

Additionally, the federal grants unit—which administers Community Development Block grants and other U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development dollars—within the Department of Community Development will be shifted to DECD. This will allow all of the city’s real estate and business development financing programs to be managed by a single agency, enabling the city to address the needs of non-profit and for-profit developers as well as other customers more efficiently. This will also allow the renamed Department of Planning (DOP) to focus exclusively on planning functions as well as zoning, inspections, architectural and design issues; which will help DOP build upon the great work it is capable of as demonstrated by the Downtown Master Plan.

To further enable the enhanced focus on planning and implementation, the private property maintenance functions routinely carried out by what was formerly Community Development are being reviewed and the responsibility for grass cutting and refuge removal has been placed with the Department of Public Works where there is an existing parallel effort for public property.

"Now that we've had some time to evaluate the revitalization opportunities and challenges confronting Richmond, and best practices for addressing complex urban development needs, it's clear that these organizational changes make sense. Among other benefits, this consolidation moves us away from the fragmented management of our reinvestment programs, and positions us to establish real momentum as we try to stimulate the type of growth and development that the Mayor, City Council and citizens expect," said Chapman.

Building on Mayor Jones' theme of communication, cooperation and collaboration, a Development Council is also being established. The Development Council is designed to bring about increased cross fertilization and coordination of effort and resources among relevant city agencies and authorities. It is envisioned that the Development Council, which will be chaired by Peter Chapman, will include the DECD, DOP, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond Police Department, the Office of Minority Business Development, the Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities, and the Departments of Public Works and Public Utilities. Based on project need and project interest, other authorities and agencies such as Public Libraries, Public Health, EDA, CDA and the Port of Richmond will work with the Development Council as necessary.

Mr. Chapman noted that the changes being brought about also require some changes in leadership and personnel. Ms. Jane Ferrara, an experienced and respected real estate professional who has served as director of the once stand alone Office of Real Estate Services for four years, will become deputy director and chief operating officer of an integrated DECD. For an indefinite period, Mr. Chapman will assume the duties of the director while continuing in his current role as DCAO. The existing director of Economic Development, Carthan Currin, will be leaving the agency to join a local law firm. The deputy director for Economic Development, Dara Glass, will be leaving to pursue other opportunities as well. The service and contributions of these two have been recognized in many ways and will be appreciated for years to come.

Contact: Tammy Hawley, (804) 646-3110