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Redskins deal offers peek at city’s playbook

David Larter November 9, 2012 14
Westhampton School property

The Westhampton School property near Libbie and Patterson avenues. (Photo by David Larter)

Richmond was looking for a big-dollar corporate backer to help it bring the Washington Redskins training camp to the city.

It approached Bon Secours, one of the area’s largest health-care organizations, which for years had had its eye on a six-acre city-owned property near one of its hospitals in the West End.

Those dual desires helped fuel the deal announced last month by which Bon Secours agreed to help bankroll an athletic facility behind the Science Museum on West Broad Street in exchange for a chance to get its hands on the Westhampton School property near Libbie and Patterson avenues.

Although the deal is awaiting city council approval, it has drawn public opposition from at least one council member and residents of the affected neighborhoods.

The city’s intended deal with Bon Secours was announced last month.

At a public meeting organized by the city and attended by about 75 people, residents spoke out Thursday against a perceived lack of transparency in the city’s dealings with Bon Secours and the impact an NFL training camp would have on the area of the city near Broad and Boulevard. Others spoke in support of the city’s deal.

Last week, before becoming deadlocked in a still-too-close-to-call election race against John Baliles, City Council member Bruce Tyler raised questions about the city’s deal with Bon Secours.

Tyler represents the district in which the Westhampton School property sits. Bon Secours has been eying the land for expansion of its nearby St. Mary’s hospital campus since at least 2009.

In a mailer sent out in his district prior to the Nov. 6 election, Tyler called the move a “back-room deal.”

“While Bon Secours’ desire to purchase the Westhampton School property was well known, Mayor [Dwight] Jones’ willingness to negotiate a back-room deal without public knowledge or input is an insult not only to the citizens of the 1st District, but to the entire city,” Tyler wrote.

Tyler said he supported a public sale of the property in which the proceeds would help make infrastructure improvements to schools in his district.

Jane Ferrara, chief operating officer at the city’s economic development office, said the administration saw the deal with Bon Secours as part of a larger economic development initiative.

“The properties that the city owns are our best opportunity to effect economic development,” Ferrara said. “The best use of that property is not to sell it off in a one-off deal to get a few million dollars for it.”

The drugstore chain Walgreens had also been pursuing the Westhampton School property. Ferrara said at the meeting Thursday that Walgreens was offering the city $1 million per acre.

Bon Secours wants to build a 75,000-square-foot medical building on the site and would pay millions more for construction and to lease space at the training-camp site and to expand its East End hospital. Ferrara said the agreement with Bon Secours represents an almost $40 million investment that would add almost 200 jobs.

“We took a three-week training camp and turned it into a long-term investment in the city,” Ferrara said.

As proposed, the city would grant Bon Secours four acres of the Westhampton property for at least 60 years for $5,000 per year.

Bon Secours would commit to paying $3 million for the naming rights to the Redskins training camp facility on 17 acres owned by the state at DMV Drive and Leigh Street. The Redskins would occupy the facility for three weeks each summer for eight years. Bon Secours would also build offices for a sports medicine program and a men’s health clinic at the facility.

The deal also calls for Bon Secours to spend $8.5 million for a 25,000-square-foot expansion of its Richmond Community Hospital on Nine Mile Road in the East End, increasing the availability of health care in that part of town.

Ferrara reiterated that the deal must still go before City Council for approval and that all such real estate transactions are negotiated in private.

Charles Samuels, the newly reelected council member from the Second District, which encompasses the Carver neighborhood where the training camp would be, took issue with Bruce Tyler’s characterization of the deal.

“I wouldn’t call it a back-room deal,” he said. “The administration has been working very hard to get Bon Secours to invest more in the east end of town to pull in more private development. What this deal does is gets Bon Secours to invest in three areas of the city. … It seems like a great deal for the citizens, for Bon Secours, for the city and for the Redskins as well.”

The council will vote Monday on a measure to approve the general framework of the deal. The land-use permits and the financing of the deal will have to be approved by council.

Bon Secours, a $3.3 billion nonprofit health system, has almost 2,000 employees in the Richmond area.

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14 Comments »

  1. Rob November 9, 2012 at 8:21 am - Reply

    My congrats to the mayor and the economic development team. This type of creative thinking is what this city needs to effect change and encourage development across all areas of need in the city. No one should question the mayors resolve to provide adequate health care to the 25th/nine mile area of the city and at the same time secure an increased commitment from BS to keep their St. Marys facility growing in the City. The Redskins are a bonus. The jobs created by the hospital expansions will have positive long term implications. Kudos to Byron Marshall as well.

  2. Scott Burger November 9, 2012 at 9:00 am - Reply

    The other factor to consider is how this may involve VCU plans.

  3. Taylor Steele November 9, 2012 at 9:57 am - Reply

    The biggest issue I see here(at the moment) is the perception(real, or imagined) that this was done behind the backs of the community in secret. As to what happens at the Westhampton site, I would rather know more about Bon Securs plans before I voice an opinion. I would hope that if Bob Securs does get the site, that the green space(playground, playing fields) are left intact. If the structure is demolished & a new structure erected, or renovated, I hope it is done so in way that serves as a model for green building.

  4. Brian November 9, 2012 at 11:25 am - Reply

    ^ according to the RTD article, the athletic fields would remain but the playground would be relocated

    • Taylor Steele November 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      that is a good sign.

  5. brian November 9, 2012 at 11:47 am - Reply

    It seems to me that the horse trading by each party ultimately benefits the community. Bon Secours gets the coveted Westhampton property for accretive development, City of Richmond gets Redskins sponsorship and East End commitment and community gets three improved areas. The complaints ring of NIH (not invented here) more than legitimate argument. Tyler seems to be a political animal so I discount his thin logic as mere posturing during political season.

  6. pc November 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    i think this is a very cerative thing. i salute the mayor and his team. just because Bon secours gets some benefit, it is not a bad deal. you should be concerned that the city gets maximum benefit from such deals. you do not worry about others benefit as long as it is benefitting the city. bon secours is a first class company, it donates lots of money locally and provides high paying jobs to the community. please do not raise objections just because it is providing substantial funding to city in exchange for a school building that is unneeded. residents will pay even higher taxes if deal like this do not happen. this city has not progressed because a lack of leadership until now. i think this mayor is doing great things and deserve our support.

  7. Hunt Gunter November 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    The Mayor and Mrs.Ferrara have done the City of Richmond a great service. This kind of thinking is what Richmond has needed for many years. Mr. Tyler’s letter was obviously written for political reasons and not to inform the 1st District constituents. We need a city councilman who is able to work with the council and Mayor to move Richmond forward. Based on the votes counted to date Jon Baliles will be that guy.

  8. john M November 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    While I am not a huge fan of Tyler, he has some points
    $300K for 60 years is a gift from the CITY. If they sold the property they could have gotten more then What Bon Secours is paying for nameing rights.
    Then you have the lost tax revenues that Bons will not be paying fot the next 60 years. In whole this is not such a sweet deal for the City, but a good deal only for the hospital

  9. st George Pinckney November 10, 2012 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Letter that I sent to my council repre.:

    If the three transactions are unbundled, it is apparent that the City is being bamboozled. Reject the scheme.

    If Bon Secours wants to buy the Westhampton School, let them buy it. It is assessed in excess of $7M, but may be worth considerably more. To avoid the appearance of gross negligence (May be criminal, but I am not a lawyer.), an outside appraisal must be obtained.

    If sold for $XM, it is a separate question if should the city “invest” a substantial amount of money in two football fields? No where else has it been profitable. There was an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal regarding screwed taxpayers in two municipalities.

    Regarding expansion of Community Hospital: The area was previously under-served because of the inability of patients to pay, but with universal health care, it is the only opportunity for revenue growth in Richmond. Bon Secours should proffer substantial funds for the right to expand.

    The Chmura study was done only on the revenue side and at best is unethical and may be fraud. You are a criminal attorney, not I. At least, there needs to be a study of expenses. The figure given by the City last night for expenses exceeded revenue. I hope that council is not stupid enough to think that they can make up the difference with volume!

    St. George B. Pinckney

  10. Zeke November 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Where can I read the minutes of the community meeting that Councilman Samuels held about this development?

    City Council votes Monday, and it seems to me there was exactly one occasion for the public to ask questions or raise concerns. Which of course I could not attend. Anyone know of other sources of information?

  11. Becky Brown November 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Appears to be yet another back room, closed
    door, down and dirty, secreted “deal” with
    the influencial trying to run Richmond through
    the Mayor. Did anyone get a voice or vote
    on the Bike Race Championships. Follow the
    Money!

    • Taylor Steele November 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Someone has an issue with the bike race championships? What is the issue? I ask, because I have not heard any.

  12. Taylor Steele November 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    I can see both points of view here:

    1) The City has a history of screwing up when it spends money

    2) Richmond also has a history of being regressive do in large part to an unfortunate fear of change.

    I welcome the concept of this project, still trying to digest the $numbers$, and make sense of them.

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