Friday, November 20, 2015

City Completes Bond Sale and Obtains Lower Rates

On November 17, 2015, the City of Richmond successfully issued $85.8 million of taxable and tax-exempt series of bonds, which were sold by competitive bid. Seven bids were received for the $62.8 million Series 2015B bonds, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch winning the bid. Seven bids were also received for the $23.0 million Series 2015C bonds, with Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc., winning the bid.

Reporting before the Finance and Economic Development Standing Committee today, the City noted that investor demand for the City’s bonds was considerable and that the bonds sold with a lower than expected interest rate, saving money for the city. The City received an interest rate of 3.83% on its taxable bond issuance, over 1.25% lower than initial planning rates. The longer term tax-exempt series received a 3.16% interest rate.

The bonds sold will be used to finance spending related to general capital improvements for Stone Brewery as well general capital improvements in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan.

“These lower-than-expected rates are a benefit of the City’s strong credit rating, and sound management that has protected that rating,” stated Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

All three of the national credit agencies, Moody’s Investor Service, Fitch Ratings, and Standard & Poor’s, rate Richmond’s bonds Aa2, AA+ and AA+, respectively, with a Stable outlook, which is considered “very strong”. The City’s ratings are either one or two notches away from “AAA”, the highest possible credit rating. This fact, coupled with near historic low interest rates, provided the City the opportunity to achieve these excellent results.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Intermediate Terminal Project Plans Advance

The City of Richmond has announced plans to move forward with improvements to the Intermediate Terminal/Intermediate Wharf – a City-owned parcel that fronts the James River on the East side of the city.

Providing increased public access to the riverfront is one of the goals in the City’s adopted Riverfront Plan. Improvements to the Intermediate Terminal Dock are seen as especially timely with the completion of the Virginia Capital Trail – 52 miles of continuous multipurpose trail between Williamsburg and Richmond.

A structural stabilization project has been underway in the Intermediate Terminal area since August of this year. With the completion of that stabilization nearing in early Spring of 2016, the City is ready to move forward with broader plans for improving riverfront access in that area, to include passive and active Riverfront recreational opportunities. Conceptual plans for the development of the area include the possibility of a community pavilion, an event lawn, an interpretive tidal pool, a fishing area, or maybe even swings. An exploration of what the public would like to see created in that area will be undertaken with a planned public meeting process.

“While our Riverfront Plan suggests any number of possibilities for this area, we are ready to have a more direct discussion with the public and to develop more specific plans for enhancements in this area,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “We have an opportunity to lift up the richness of neighborhood history while creating a recreational asset that can unify the riverfront corridor. With the completion of the Virginia Capital Trail, the east riverfront area is being utilized more than ever, and we look forward to creating another accessible public space for the city’s enjoyment.”

Local civil engineering and design firm, Timmons Group, has been contracted to develop conceptual plans for the Intermediate Terminal. They will be holding public meetings beginning in mid-January 2016 to discuss project concepts and design recommendations.

The Richmond Riverfront Plan emphasizes the importance of the riverfront as a singular destination and attraction unique to Richmond which can catalyze growth for the whole city and in specific areas. The plan provides for phased riverfront improvements to reinvigorate existing public spaces and establish new public landscapes of varying character, program and scale. Along the east riverfront, other progress has been seen with the demolition of the Lehigh Cement silos and installation of the Low-Line project with CSX and Capital Trees. In other riverfront news, the City has also recently announced plans for Port of Richmond improvements and began construction on the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge.

Monday, November 16, 2015

RVA Reads - Committed to Improving Childhood Literacy

The Richmond Public Library, the Office of Community Wealth Building and Richmond Public Schools (RPS) have partnered to create RVA Reads to improve literacy in the city by improving access to books in low income homes of preschool children. RVA Reads is designed to expand or create home libraries for three and four year olds, increase the time parents and children read together and engage children and families in library services.

The program provides one book a month to hundreds of pre-k children participating in the Virginia Preschool Initiative. To introduce the books each month, community volunteers visit pre-k classrooms to lead fun, interactive readings with the students. These readings take place at the RPS preschool centers at Blackwell, Maymont and Mary Scott schools as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Preschool Learning Center. Members of the City Administration and parent volunteers will lead the next reading event at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Preschool Learning Center on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 9:30 a.m.

RVA Reads began as a pilot program in 2015. As a result of the program’s success, Mayor Dwight C. Jones designated funding in the FY16 budget to continue the program. The first books included in the program were The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, and Pete the Rocking Cat in my School Shoes by Erik Litwin. The December selection is a bilingual book by Alice and Martin Provensen entitled El Libro de las Estaciones / Book of Seasons.