in Richmond, VA
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If youre a fan of jam band faves Phish from Vermont, youll dig a video posted Thursday on twitter by the bands bassist, Mike Gordon, who took a stroll in Richmond and fell in love. Yes, we know hes been here many times before.As he wanders around looking for Lamplighter coffee, his genuine-sounding compliments about RVA sound like they couldve come straight from a Venture Richmond brochure. And hes right, it was a beautiful fall day. Check it out. from tour pic.twitter.com/NEUeB8tXLA Mike Gordon mikegordon October 18, 2018Phish is starting a three-night run at the Hampton Coliseum on Friday, where they previously recorded a double live album, Hampton Comes Alive, riffing on the classic Peter Frampton title.
Its about that time again. For years devotees have come out in droves, lining up at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and scouring local market shelves for the coveted and limited Gingerbread Stout. Beer Advocate magazine gave it a perfect score of 100 after its initial release in 2011. The imperial milk stout comes in at 9.2 percent alcohol, and with its notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, honeycomb, ginger and cinnamon, it tastes like the holidays in a bottle. The brewers at Hardywood have since developed spin-offs, like the Christmas Morning, which adds the flavors of coffee beans from Black Hand Coffee Co. to the stout. Then theres the Kentucky Christmas Morning, which brings both coffee and bourbon into the mix.This year the beer is available in 11 varieties, including brandy barrel-aged, rye barrel-aged and port-barrel aged. And you might be able to get your hands on 11 Gingerbread Stouts, plus a limited edition glass, together in a set. Family Tree Beer Club members, who have access to exclusive beers and deals, plus merchandise and pre-release options, get first dibs, and at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, however many $175 sets are left will become available to the public.Theres a one-per-person limit, and pickup begins Friday, Dec. 14. Snag yours here.
Theres a lot to love about the newly reopened Monroe Park -- who can be mad at a brightly painted piano available for playing But organizations and neighborhood associations around town have their beef with how the city handled the parks makeover. We sent some questions to Ben Weiner, communication director for a Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, which has been one of the most vocal critics particularly of the Monroe Park Conservancy, to hear their side of the story. Style Weekly: Monroe Park obviously has a long history in Richmond. When they decided years ago to renovate, what were you hoping forSierra Club: To understand Sierra Clubs concerns you must begin in the 1990s when Virginia Commonwealth University attempted to get control of Monroe Park with a plan to remove about 40 mature trees. Surrounding neighborhoods and others pushed back against this proposal and it was defeated. As a result of this resistance, the Monroe Park Advisory Council was established by City Council with extensive neighborhood representation. The Advisory Council was reconstituted after a meeting at St. Andrews Church convened by Oregon Hill Neighborhood President Todd Woodson. The Advisory Council stopped the park from being used as a parking lot, and the Advisory Council undertook the creation of a Monroe Park Master Plan that was developed with large public participation. Unfortunately, the City Council signed a long-term lease with the Monroe Park Conservancy who took over the leadership of the park. The Conservancy had little neighborhood representation, and discarded much of the Monroe Park Master Plan. Against the protests of the Sierra Club and Oregon Hill representatives, the Conservancy led a concerted effort to remove over 40 mature trees from the park without the proper City approvals. Not only was the goal flawed, the process to force-complete it was flawed.How would you describe the Sierra Clubs role/involvement during the renovation process Its at this point after the Monroe Park Master Plan was discarded that the Sierra Club Falls of the James became more vocally involved. In January 2017, the Sierra Club Falls of the James released an, open, very strongly worded letter to the Mayor and City leadership in regard to the Monroe Park Conservancy, that included a statement of facts.The Sierra Club Falls of the James was very angry that our request for a meeting with the mayor on this subject was ignored, along with the rest of the letter. The Sierra Club took a strong stand against healthy, mature magnolia and maple trees being removed from Monroe Park to make way for tent rental space. Shamefully, these trees were destroyed anyway to make way for temporary tent space. What were your concerns going into the renovation process One of the Sierra Club Falls of the James main reasons for getting involved when it did was because it saw how the public was being treated. Even though Councilman Parker Agelasto successfully sponsored a resolution that required the Conservancy broaden its membership to be more inclusive of neighborhood and environmental groups, the Conservancy board remains with little neighborhood representation. The Conservancys board is weighted heavily with VCU executives. The Conservancy opened a new board seat recently, and, instead of adding a neighborhood representative, an executive of Dominion Corporation was added to the board. Soon after a Dominion representative was added, the Conservancy proposed adding a lighted sign with the Dominion logo at a prominent entrance to the park. This sign was rejected by the Planning Commission and Urban Design Committee thanks to many outraged letters from the public. Unfortunately, this lit billboard one of the only issues with the Monroe Park renovations where the public has felt like they had any impact whatsoever.Do you feel like your concerns, and those of other organizations and residents, were heard We believe our concerns were heard or read but appear to have been ignored and/or disregarded. We cannot speak for other organizations, but this process severely lacked in community involvement.How would you describe the environmental impact of the renovation When the park was reopened it was apparent that the park has lost much of its valuable tree canopy. What was once a city environmental oasis is now an environmental disaster. VCUs goal in the 1990s of removing many of the trees from the park was finally implemented by the Conservancy. A lot of the charm and publically available amenities that existed in the original master plan have been done away with, including a childrens area and public restrooms. Monroe Park no longer feels like a public park. The Sierra Club needs to protect remaining trees in all of Richmonds parks, including Monroe Park. While it will take a generation to recover the tree canopy of the destroyed mature trees, the Sierra Club must push for the tree coverage to be restored in Monroe Park. Because if its poor stewardship of the environmental resources of the park, the Conservancys lease of the park should be rescinded by City Council.Were you surprised by what you saw when the park reopened Given how this public-private partnership has been run, the current status is not a surprise at all. Nonetheless, the current state of Monroe Park is extremely disappointing.Anything else youd like to add We urge anyone and everyone curious to read and consider the Sierra Clubs letters and statements, which documented many of the problems with the Monroe Park renovations. These were shared upon release with a local media that largely ignored them. There is no excuse for what has happened. We are very concerned that if things are allowed to stand, other public parks may face similar disasters in the future.
Brilliant or boondoggle What is known and what to ask next. Theres one question the developers pitching a $1 billion-plus downtown revitalization want asked of anyone who criticizes their plan.Do you have a better ideaIf so, they say, have at it.Till then, their nonprofit group, the NH District Corp., stands ready to transform a mostly desolate area north of Broad Street into Richmonds biggest economic development project in more than half a century.The idea is to summon forth a bustling, mixed-use neighborhood called Navy Hill, now a brown and grayish urban island where the biggest signs of life are people entering and leaving the John Marshall Courts Building.The 10-block section starts in the west behind the Richmond Marriott, at Fifth Street, where the Richmond Coliseum sits. From there, it extends east to 10th Street, behind City Hall. Its eastern border includes the Valentine and Virginia Commonwealth Universitys medical campus. Its boundary to the north is East Leigh Street.On these 20-some acres of city-owned land, NH District envisions a new $220 million, 17,500-seat Coliseum that would be the largest arena in Virginia, a $10 million restoration of the historic Blues Armory which once held part of 6th Street Marketplace a 527-room hotel, restaurants, retail stores, office space, a bus transfer station, a midsize performance venue, a restored street grid that has been closed off for decades, thousands of new jobs, including 12,000 of them for construction, and apartments for an estimated 2,800 people, including areas designated for affordable housing.Theres more, they say:It wont cost you a dime.The city faces no financial risk.The time is now.Do you have a better ideaBefore you answer, critics, the private developers are aware of the No. 1 thing they must explain: How can they possibly pay for something like thisA 100-percent, completely legitimate question, says Grant Neely, a former chief of staff for Mayor Dwight Jones. In his role as director of strategic communications at Dominion Energy, Neely represents the utilitys chairman, president and chief executive Thomas F. Farrell.NH District and its Navy Hill project are the brainchilds of Farrell. And now its become a signature goal for Mayor Levar Stoney. Neely and members of the NH District team gathered with Style last week in the Urban Hang Suite RVA, a coffee shop at Third and Broad streets soon to be opened by radio personality, podcast host and social media influencer Kelli Lemon.The developers have signed on Lemon, among others, to help spread the word about the project. Lemon says that if the project becomes a reality, shed be likely to look to the area as the site of a second business venture to pursue after her coffee shop.Also attending the meeting is real estate lawyer Jennifer Mullen, a partner at Roth Jackson, alongside firm partner Mark Kronenthal, who worked with Neely in Jones administration as chief of staff and senior policy adviser.Theres project spokesman Jeff Kelley, who oversees public relations and community outreach. Beside him is former City Council member and 2016 mayoral candidate Michelle Mosby, a businesswoman.Mosby says shes here as an adviser to the team on workforce issues.Today an opportunity is before us, Mosby says. Its time to revitalize this neighborhood.They walk through a presentation that starts with the days of the electric streetcar system, which helped form what is now Dominion Energy, and the construction of Interstate 95, which broke up Jackson Ward and other parts of Richmond, and, along with the Downtown Expressway, decimated mostly black neighborhoods.Why begin with these early days of the neighborhood Because its fundamentally broken, Neely says, and it has been for 60 years.Along with that history as a backdrop, there are maps, an animated video, vivid renderings, a Beyonc name-drop that has been heard in other presentations of the proposal as in, imagine the superstar performing here and impassioned rationale about why Richmond needs their development solution now.By now, they probably mean yesterday.When is this happeningA Freedom of Information Act request filed by Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Mark Robinson revealed an early timeline of the project.It showed goals that loom large: City Council approving the project by Dec. 1, selling bonds in January, beginning construction in February, demolishing the Coliseum in March and breaking ground on the new Coliseum by the summer.That assumes a lot about the citys legislative process.The ultimate scenario would have been for Stoney to have wrapped up his administrations negotiations and vetting by now, handing off the needed legislation to City Council for consideration and to the public for debate.As of Monday, no public agendas appeared to include the introduction of such legislation.Stoneys last official update on the project came Sept. 11, when the city reported significant progress on negotiations with the developers, saying consensus had been reached on several aspects of the plan.But officials were continuing to analyze finances and waiting on a report from Hunden Strategic Partners.No matter what becomes of those private talks, it all hinges on City Council, which could launch this development into reality or sock it into oblivion like former Mayor Dwight Jones controversial Shockoe Bottom ballpark proposal four years ago.With this type of deal, developers must convince seven of the nine council members to vote their way. That means three council members could bring it all to a halt.Councilwoman Reva Trammel said last week that shes not supporting the project.Councilwoman Kim Gray cites issues with the risk, scope and burden of the plan, misplaced priorities,and frustration with the process.You probably know more than me, says Gray, citing an embargo on information from city staff and administrators.That doesnt sound accurate, says Stoneys press secretary, Jim Nolan.The administration has been keeping Council members updated on the status of the negotiations and has asked them not to disclose confidential information so we can negotiate the best possible agreement for the city, Nolan says in an email.Once theyre given details, City Council members also have said they would want to pursue their own third-party study of the project, independent of whatever analysis the mayor provides.Even if legislation were delivered to council this week, its difficult to imagine a decision-making process compressed into a time frame that allows for public hearings and a decision by December.But we arent there yet, because as of Monday the financial details of the project remain in no-comment, private-negotiation mode.Which brings us back to the biggest question developers get asked. How can they pay for such a massive projectWithout the financial details of the project, theres no way to know.The public cant crunch numbers it doesnt have. And anyone whos publicly endorsed the project outside of NH District Chamber RVA, the Times-Dispatch editorial board and others has done so without knowing whether the figures add up.Officials ask for patience and faith.In a February news release, Stoney said he would move forward with a proposal only if it does not negatively impact the citys finances and debt capacity.Dominion and Altria have pored over the finances, says Neely, of Dominion and the NH District, and the city also expects analysis from its financial adviser, Davenport & Co.Whats known is how the financing plan will generally be structured using a creative yet controversial technique thats led to successes and failures across the country. Its how Short Pump Town Center was built west of Richmond, and its called tax increment financing, or TIF.If City Council approves, this would be the citys first such district.The financing model has been on Virginias books for decades. Its a tool developed for use at the local level. Cities and counties can establish the districts to tackle areas designated as blighted using the Virginia statute, or set them up through their own agreements between the municipality and the development group.In this case, Kelley says, this district would be established by agreement.Private developers would pay for the part of the project that includes housing, hotel, office space, retail and restaurant.Bonds issued by NH District Corp. would pay for the public part of the project, the $220 million arena and $10 million Blues Armory restoration.It goes like this: The city draws a boundary around the area to be developed. That area becomes the TIF district. The city determines how much in property taxes came from that area as of Jan. 1 in the previous year, or the current value whatever is lower. As developers begin to make improvements to the district, the expectation is that the value of the property increases, along with property taxes. The city takes out property taxes on the base amount, and puts the tax revenue from the increase into a separate fund. That fund is used to pay down the principal and interest on the bonds, and perhaps other costs incurred by the developer.In essence, the argument goes, the district pays for itself. Taxpayers get an amenity like the Coliseum without having to shoulder the risk, proponents say.Theres an asterisk attached to the district, because its boundary would extend beyond that 10-block area of development.That allows for us to get to taxable properties, Mullen says.Developers confirmed last week that their deal with the city will work only by including an existing, taxable property: Dominions downtown headquarters at One James River Plaza, and an under-construction skyscraper at 600 Canal Place.Its the closest taxable property to this area, Neely says.It means that millions of dollars from the increase on tax revenue from Dominions downtown towers from the starting date of the districts establishment will move from the citys general fund into the TIF district fund.Kronenthal stresses that the city gets those taxes either way, whether its to the general fund or to the district.But that element of the deal worries some members of council, including its president, Chris Hilbert, who told the Times-Dispatch in July that using tax revenue from Dominions towers would not be palatable for me.And this week, Kelley confirms that the TIF district may need to include downtown property beyond the Dominion towers. He wouldnt elaborate, citing negotiations underway.What is there to worry aboutAgain and again, developers say, the city wont be at risk.If development stalls, if the economy takes a turn, if revenue doesnt roll in as projected, or if something unforeseen happens, the developers say, bondholders will be the ones at risk not the city.The investors are the ones on the hook here, Kelley says.There are two things to keep in mind, says David Merriman, a professor at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose area of study has included tax-increment financing.Merriman recently studied 30 such projects, and in a report last month from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, found that in most cases, TIF has not accomplished the goal of promoting economic development.If bonds have no deep backing, he says, then investors will seek a high interest rate unless revenue projections from the developer are high. And thats on top of whatever the Federal Reserve may do with interest rates.If the bonds default, even if Richmond isnt backing or issuing them, Merriman says, it would be a black mark against the city. The rating agencies are not going to like that, he says, and the credit rating would be hurt.But bonds rarely default, he says: What often happens is, the city finds other ways to subsidize the project so the revenue bonds dont default. Future mayors or City Council members would work with the developers, corporations or other private sources to find a way to keep the bonds from defaulting. You can bet they would work really hard to try to avoid that situation, he says.What else is at risk Money, time and energy that city officials put into exploring and analyzing the project. Theres also the risk that infrastructure costs exceed estimates, as Hunton & Williams lawyer John D. ONeill Jr. outlines in a presentation on TIFs, posted online. Interference in the free market one that by many accounts is drawing development to the Richmond area. What if businesses would have located and prospered there anyway, asks the Government Finance Officers Association. Are taxpayers subsidizing something that doesnt need to be subsidized As Merriman puts it, Is this stimulating development that wouldnt have occurred otherwiseIts unclear how much the citys economic development team has marketed this 10-block area to private developers. But whats clear now is that its empty, say representatives of the NH District, and that Richmond needs a new Coliseum.How did we get hereShort answer: Dominion Energys Farrell. For several years, hes been interested in how a city arena could serve as a catalyst for development. He and other business leaders commissioned a study in 2011 on replacing the arena.It went nowhere, and the Coliseum, which opened in 1971, has been operating at a loss to the city. Physically, its ailing, and is way past a patch-up that a previous City Council approved years ago. And now theres competition from bigger arenas, most notably the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.Were not competitive today, says Jack Berry, president and chief executive of Richmond Region Tourism, which uses the Coliseum to hold 10 to 12 conventions a year. Weve got to have the new facility.In June 2017, Richmond BizSense first reported that Farrell and his powerful coalition of local business leaders were pitching their development project. Then Stoney took up the cause, announcing that he would open a request for proposals to develop the North of Broad area. NH District was the only developer to respond.There had been no widespread public clamoring for a new arena. An underlying theme of the recent mayoral campaign was to shy away from shiny projects in favor of buckling down, fixing schools and improving the core services of the city.The NH District says that the citys master plan shows that the area is ripe for development, and a recent Broad Street Rapid Transit Study called for the same. But there was nothing that called for a mixed-use development plan to be taken up by a sole developer.Stewart Schwartz, of the Partnership for Smarter Growth, writes in a Times-Dispatch editorial that he supports the plan but wonders if theres been a level playing field in getting to this idea. He also asks whether the city has weighed this against other investments it could make.In June 2010, former City Council member Bill Pantele suggested tearing down the Coliseum altogether, freeing up that area for broader development and what then he estimated could be $8 million a year in real estate taxes.Other people wonder why the project isnt being approached as a region.I would not want to take this on as a single locality, Councilwoman Gray says. These things need to have regional investment.After all, the entire region uses, and would benefit, from the development.But thats not for the NH District Corp. to decide.There is nothing in this project that we made up out of thin air, Kronenthal says. All roads have led to this project, developers say, on this piece of land. Its smart and ready to go and theyre ready for the public debate to begin. A city cant stand still, says John R. Lombard, an associate professor in the School of Public Service at Old Dominion University. Its grow or die.He and his colleagues studied the successful use of a TIF district in the Virginia Beach Town Center project. Lombard isnt familiar with the Richmond plan, and the Virginia Beach project was structured somewhat differently. But he says the public should take a close look at TIF numbers.Its taking a risk, he says. One of the hallmarks of TIFs is the structure of the deal. And the devils in the details.What should the public watch forPeople should consider the alternate uses of the funds that would be tied up for the project, he says: So it becomes a resource-allocation issue for the city.As for the numbers that go into the financial scenario, Lombard says, I would suggest that they carefully scrutinize all the assumptions. S
Art-collecting couple Andy and Ginny Lewis holds a major sale. Andy and Ginny Lewis never thought of themselves as collectors.But now that theyre downsizing from a large house on 5 acres to a city penthouse, they no longer have room for the world class collection of contemporary crafts theyve been acquiring since 1975. Andy Lewis was president of Best Products Corp. in the 70s, 80s and 90s and his parents, Frances and the late Sydney Lewis, donated their collection of art nouveau, art deco and 20th century art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1985, so collecting came naturally. Now the couple is finding that letting go is more challenging as they prepare to say goodbye to much of that collection during a four-day sale being managed by Phoenix Estate Sales. The company warned them not to edit, preferring that they leave everything they didnt want in the house and theyd deal with it.A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Visual Arts Center, a particularly appropriate beneficiary given Ginnys deep ties to it, where she served on the board for years and was named volunteer of the year. But also a number of the objects originated at the Visual Arts Center or its predecessor, the Hand Workshop.Its difficult to send your stuff out into the world, Andy says. Everyone who downsizes feels that way. There are some beautiful things and we hope they end up with good homes where people love and care for them. A good part of the Lewis collection is from the 70s, 80s and 90s and came out of the California studio crafts movement, which resulted from the postwar boom as Americans moving to the newly developed suburbs sought to personalize their homes.We met a lot of those artists and we had a big house then, so if we liked something, we didnt have to think about whether we had room for it, Andy recalls. This is all complicated by the fact that many of the artists are friends, so we had an emotional attachment to the stuff.Locally, they acquired works by Clifford Earl, Jude Schlotzhauer and the late Mary Lou Deale, among others. Their collection included a dozen pieces by Frank Heller, whom they discovered at a gallery in New York before he moved to Richmond and taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, and winnowed that by half for the sale.Most of the pieces in the sale are sculptural objects such as ceramics, glass and clay, but fiber art such as wall hangings and quilts, furniture and household items are also included. One unexpected benefit of cleaning out the houses attic was rediscovering things they hadnt seen in a quarter of a century. Now were using some of those things here, Ginny says. But we didnt miss them for 25 years. Talking about how peoples tastes have changed, she cites three boxes of silver items, many belonging to her husbands parents and grandparents that will be part of the sale, including a punch bowl shaped like a champagne glass.It isnt only the punch bowl that makes this estate sale exceptional. A representative of Phoenix Estate Sales told them theirs was the first sale in five years that didnt include a Chippendale sofa. Theyre thrilled everything is so contemporary. Our stuff doesnt look like old people stuff, Ginny says with a laugh.What isnt sold at the four-day sale will be auctioned online, donated or discarded.Our life has been one tent short of a circus, Ginny says. But its all good. SThe Lewis sale is held Oct. 18 through 21 each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 16 Dahlgren Road
3301 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23230 Directions
The Department of Justice has subpoenaed at least three Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania as part of an investigation into abuse by priests.
Hundreds of the two-pound metal balls rolled downhill, bouncing and damaging several vehicles along the way.
Confusion over a scorecard leads to a very tough lesson for Cole Pollard.
A Chesterfield couple learned a valuable lesson after receiving counterfeit cash in exchange for a gaming system after a sale in Richmond.
Amelia Sheriffs deputies are looking for thieves who broke out a churchs front door window, ransacked the sanctuary, and then took off with several items.
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