Monday, June 13, 2011

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.