Canceled Richmond Coliseum Developers Plan Large Arena in Henrico


Henrico County authorities are selling the former Best Products, Inc. headquarters off East Parham Road and I-95. Private developers GreenCity LLC plan to build a complex that would include a mixed-use sports and concert arena that could seat 17,000 people. The proposed $2.3 billion project will include mixed-income housing, workspaces, and outdoor areas, according to a Henrico County press release.

“The arena will put this region back on the entertainment map,” County Manager John Vithoulkas said in the press release.

He added, “It also will provide tremendous benefits to our county while creating no financial risk to our taxpayers.”

Developers hope the eco-friendly project will attract touring concerts and sports, including ECHL Hockey and G-League Basketball, according to the press release.

The project comes nearly a year after neighboring Richmond’s city council killed plans for a coliseum seating 17,500, according to Richmond BizSense. Local lawyer Justin Griffin attracted attention for his criticism of the Navy Hill development project championed by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. Griffin said Richmond’s plan was not financially responsible and said the taxpayer-funded project would cost the city more than it would gain in revenue, according to his website

Vithoulkas said Henrico’s plan is different from Richmond’s because it carries no risk to Henrico taxpayers. “GreenCity will be a private development financed with private bonds,” Vithoulkas said. “This is what we do in Henrico. Smart economic partnerships with no risk and significant benefits to the taxpayer.”

The bonds would repaid over 30 years through taxes to the county under a community development authority, an arrangement that Vithoulkas said had worked well for the county in the past.

Richmond’s current coliseum was shuttered in 2019, and Richmond’s leadership has been unable to develop a plan to replace or restore the 13,500-seat facility. Opposing the monument helped launch the candidacy for mayor of both Griffin and council member Kim Gray. Stoney won re-election, but questions of what to do with the defunct property remain.

“Henrico’s announcement today shows that this vision had merit – and the Mayor wishes them well and he’s glad that the region will benefit,” Stoney’s Chief of Staff Lincoln Saunders said in a statement posted by reporter Roberto Roldan on Twitter.

Michael Hallmark and Susan Eastridge, two of the developers from the Navy Hill project, are leading the GreenCity project.

“The former Best Products headquarters, including its iconic Art-Deco eagle statues, would be renovated and repurposed,” the county press release states.

At a press conference Tuesday, Vithoulkas, Hallmark, and Eastridge said the development would boost Henrico economically while being environmentally conscious and socially inclusive.

The developers will submit formalized plans to the county; the Board of Supervisors will then need to decide to approve the plans to allow the property sale to go forward. After that, the developers will need the county to rezone the property. Once rezoning is approved, the developers will buy the property for $6.2 million — the same amount that the county paid to acquire the property in 2011. Completion of the arena is expected in 2025, with completion of the whole development expected by 2033, according to a timeline tweeted by reporter Tyler Thrasher.

Vithoulkas said, “We are thrilled to endorse this bold, visionary opportunity as it is in sync with everything that Henrico County stands for and has been working hard to achieve – inclusion, resiliency, mobility, innovation and job growth.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Henrico Development” by Henrico County.

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