Developer’s sharply-worded letter indicates new ballpark plan a bust

Posted at 9:16 PM, May 05, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) –It doesn’t appear as though the city of Richmond currently has an alternative to Mayor Dwight Jones’ Shockoe baseball proposal, after a trio of Chesterfield developers sent a letter to City Council about their privately-funded proposal to build a new ballpark on the Boulevard.

They stop short of announcing that they won’t move forward with their proposal — which was never officially submitted — but the tone indicates there is no forward movement, and a certain amount of blame is placed on the Mayor’s determination to build the Shockoe ballpark.

Rebkee developers sent a copy of their letter to CBS 6 Reporter Melissa Hipolit (READ:Letter from developer Rebkee).

Two of those developers signed a letter to the Mayor and City Council on Monday, stating the Mayor made it “abundantly clear” that he does not want an alternative to his Shockoe Bottom plan.

The developers said they did not think that decision was in the best interest of the city, but would “respect that decision.”

“We did not rate the Boulevard location better than the Shockoe Bottom location, but recognized its advantages — the City already owns it and the majority of the public prefers the stadium remain on the Boulevard,” wrote Robert Hargett and Kevin McFadden in a letter to City Council.

“The Mayor had made it abundantly clear that he does not need or want an alternative in the event the land acquisition and developer contracts for the Shockoe Bottom projects do not materialize.”

City Council voted 5-4 last week to move money away from the Mayor’s plan after learning about the alternative proposal. That very close vote will cut $12 million from the proposed 2015 budget.

The mayor has two weeks to veto budget amendments, and then it would take six votes to override that veto.

The developers said last week, in a story first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, that they would build a new baseball stadium on the Boulevard without using taxpayer dollars.

City Council member Jon Baliles introduced the six budget amendments to reallocate money away from the Shockoe Bottom proposal.

CBS 6 asked Baliles for his reaction to the alternative proposal being withdrawn.

“There’s always more than one option to a problem, and it is too bad that we’ve now lost an option that may end up being better for the city,” Baliles said.

Style Weekly obtained a letter from Jack Berry, the director of Venture Richmond, that questions Rebkee’s motives.

“Beware when a Chesterfield politician [Mr. Gecker] and a suburban strip shopping center developer from Midlothian [Rebkee] tell you they know what is best for your city,” Berry wrote in an email obtained by Style Weekly to the Venture Richmond board.

You can read that complete excerpt here.