RICHMOND, Va. -- Citing transparency, the Richmond City Council voted 8-1 Monday to appoint a commission to help vet the $1.4 billion plan that would transform downtown and replace the aging Richmond Coliseum.
But the vote didn’t come before supporters and opponents of the project filled city chambers to voice their concerns.
“You have the opportunity to create history here, so we can get revenue in- for education- so we can get new schools built and raises for teachers," supporter James Minor said.
In contrast, others like Kristen Reed, with the Richmond-For-All Coalition, said that the investment is too risky to be pursued.
“This city has time and time again invested in risky real estate deals that fail to follow through on their over inflated revenue predictions and we have had enough," Kristen Reed said.
Six weeks ago, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney unveiled a plan to redevelop 21 acres of downtown real estate into a new arena, hotel, and apartments as well as to build the largest arena in Virginia.
In his pitch, the mayor called the plan a game changing economic development opportunity - but questions have emerged as to how the city will pay for the project.
Stoney has proposed a special tax district that encompasses a large part of downtown Richmond, but opponents fear the tax would have a far reaching impact.
"This project has been expanded from 10 blocks to 80 blocks. The reason why is because the tax increment in the financial district cannot pay the debt on those 10 blocks," supporter Joe Caccittoi said.
The administration argues the project could generate $1.2 billion in tax revenue, beyond what is necessary to pay for it over 30 years.
But without the full picture and public input- city leaders say they must remain vigilant.