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Business owners anxious over about new Richmond arena plans: ‘The city is not good at doing big projects’

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced Thursday a $1.5 billion dollar project that would replace the coliseum with a new arena, called Navy Hill, leaving many business owners in the downtown area with more questions.

The Navy Hill plan centers on 10 blocks from 5th to 10th streets and from Marshall to Leigh streets, according to a media release.

Stoney promised the project would bring nearly 22,000 jobs to the city after construction is finished. He estimated it would take about five years for completion. The proposal would bring a new hotel and apartments with affordable housing.

Owner of Soul Taco, Trey Owens, runs his restaurant just blocks away in Jackson Ward. He likes the idea but worries about businesses being kept in the loop about how they could be affected.

"Trash, traffic and parking, things like that. It's already kind of a nightmare down here for parking," said Owens."

Other business owners in Downtown Richmond, like Scott Garnett, owner of Lift Coffee Shop, think it's great, but wants more information.

"Obviously anything that's going to drive business to the downtown and support downtown is great," Garnett said. "But I think there really needs to be a deep dive into the numbers."

The proposed plan is slated to bring about $1 billion in surplus revenue to the city over 30 years, which would go to education, housing, streets and art.

"Right now the schools need $800 million. In 20 years the schools are going to need $2 billion, $3 billion," added Garnett.

"The city is not good at doing big projects and everyone would admit to it. Redskins did not work out like it wanted to. The farmers market has not done well. VCU built a 1500 bed dorm faster than Monroe park had a landscape renovation," Garnett added.

A special meeting was scheduled on Monday for Stoney to present necessary ordinances to City Council and move the project forward. Council members will then vote on the proposal after a public hearing is scheduled.

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