Richmond’s proposed City Center Small Area Plan does not include arena, but here’s what could draw visitors


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new downtown Richmond development project could be on the way. Residents expressed their thoughts and concerns about the City Center Small Area Plan at a hybrid in-person and virtual meeting Tuesday night.

The City’s Department of Planning & Development Review presented a draft of the plan at the Greater Richmond Convention Center while some residents joined the discussion through Microsoft Teams.

Deputy Director Maritza Mercado Pechin said the project is an effort to bring the heart of Downtown Richmond back to life.

City Center Small Area Plan Draft

“You have super strong neighborhoods right nearby; Jackson Ward, VCU and Biotech, the State Capitol,” she explained. “But in the middle, there’s nothing. In the middle, it’s a void.”

The plan, which is not finalized, includes demolishing the Richmond Coliseum and building a large, open space the size of a football field for concerts or events, mixed-income housing, hotels and entertainment, a new fire station and a high school.

Lifelong Resident Emmett Jafari raised concerns about ensuring the proposed mixed-use residential units are inclusive.

“I would be remiss if I did not point out that the city has a history of mistreating African Americans in our community and so when I hear the phrase ‘mixed-use,’ it kind of makes me wonder, what do you mean by mixed-use?,” Jafari said.

“People who live in a place tend to get territorial. How are they going to feel about people coming from the West End or coming from Southside?,” he continued.

Rendering of W. Clay and N. 9th Streets from the City Center Small Area Plan

There was also some concern about having enough of an attraction for visitors.

“The big elephant in the room is that there’s no arena there,” one resident said during the meeting.

Unlike the Navy Hill Plan, which was vetoed by City Council last year, the City Center Small Area Plan does not include an arena.

Pechin referenced Henrico County’s announcement in December to build a 17,000 seat arena there.

However, she said if done correctly, the proposed large open space would be an attraction in itself.

Resident Joseph Boatwright sees the plan as a chance to create what Richmond may have been missing. “Not having that true identity that everyone can chime into is the real opportunity here,” he said.

The final plan would eventually head to City Council for approval.

Richmond Planning & Development is seeking feedback on the draft until July 12. Click here to submit your thoughts or reach out to Pechin with questions at or 804-646-6348.

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