Local business owners react to City’s proposed billion dollar project

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Plans to build the largest arena in Virginia to replace the Richmond Coliseum were announced by Mayor Levar Stoney on Thursday.

The proposal is part of a $1.4 billion economic development project north of Broad Street.

Considered the largest economic empowerment project in the city’s history, “The New Navy Hill,” proposal is expected to bring affordable housing units, thousands of apartments and a large hotel to benefit the new arena and the Greater Richmond Convention Center to the area.

Mayor Levar Stoney said on Thursday that the project will bring “new stores and restaurants,” including a 20,000 square foot Fresh Food Market.  

With the promise of economic growth in the area, some local business owners were encouraged by the news of the proposed project. 

8News spoke with Kelli Lemon, the owner of the Urban Suite Cafe, about the proposed project. Lemon says the project is something the City of Richmond needs.

“Downtown, unfortunately, had a bad stigma,” Lemon said, “it was a little gray, it was a little dark, it was politics, you know?” 

“With the new businesses coming into the area and people coming back downtown,” Lemon told 8News, “I think that not only when we change the Coliseum area but just the hotels in general and tourism going into the convention center.” 

The project aims to bring in new affordable apartments and homes. One woman, Jessica McCray, told 8News she worried about the potential project. 

“That sounds cute but I feel like the reality of it is, you know, you’re being pushed out,” she said. 

McCray said she came to Richmond for its unique culture and as a cosmetologist, she wonders if local businesses, like Taylor’s Barbershop, are in jeopardy of being pushed out. 

“Pushing out the old, bringing in the new or whatever way we tell ourselves to deal with it or say that it’s okay,” McCray said. “I feel like it’s just disrespectful.” 

The deal would still need City Council approval.

“We need a new arena! We need all the votes! It will change downtown,” Lemon said.

Business owners in the area told 8News that Thursday’s announcement from Mayor Stoney leaves them with lots of unanswered questions. The locals who spoke with 8News said they will follow the progress of the proposed project.  

Find 8News on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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