RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This week, Mayor Levar Stoney and other Richmond leaders released an “end-of-the-year” video looking back at everything the City has accomplished in 2022. The list includes ambitious projects that are just starting to take shape, changes you might have already seen around town, and some issues that continue to be an uphill battle.
Here is a look at what the City highlighted in its wrap-up, and what went into making those changes happen this year.
Transforming the Diamond District
In the video, Stoney and others tout the progress that was made this year on the “Diamond District” which will be built over the coming years.
The $2.4 billion Diamond District project aims to replace The Diamond baseball stadium and transform the nearby area, a publicly owned 67-acre site between Hermitage Road and Arthur Ashe Boulevard, into a space with 1,134 rental units and 92 housing units for sale, a 180 key full-service hotel, nearly 59,000 square feet of retail space and more than 1,700 parking spaces.
At least 100 of the housing units in the District will be open for project-based vouchers for public housing residents, according to the city.
RVA Diamond Partners’ proposed project will start the design phase of the new baseball stadium “as soon as possible,” and the new stadium is slated to be ready by the opening day of the 2025 minor league season.
One-time tax rebates for property owners
In December, Richmond City Council approved a one-time rebate that equals five cents per $100 of a city property’s assessed value. The vote came after proposals for a permanent reduction — down to $1.16 and $1.10 — were rejected by the council.
This rebate was intended to provide some relief to taxpayers after property values across the city increased by an average of 13% for 2023.
Property owners in Richmond should receive their tax rebate check in February.
Pay raises for Richmond Police
Pay raises for public safety officers, particularly police officers, became a major priority for the City in 2022. In February, Richmond Coalition of Police pointed to low pay as a key reason behind the City’s staffing shortages. At the time, Richmond was down around 130 police officers.
In a March announcement, Stoney promised that in the 2023 budget, $17.4 million of the budget would be allocated to make pay competitive for police officers and firefighters within the region. As part of that promise, Stoney said that 95% of police officers and firefighters would receive more than a 10% salary increase and that the starting salary of Richmond police officers would go from $44,000 to $51,000. The City Council approved this proposed budget in May.
This month, Stoney and his administration also announced that $5 million from this year’s tax revenue surplus would be set aside to fund first responders, with over $2.6 million going to the Richmond Police Department and about $1.8 million going to the Richmond Fire Department.
Combating gun violence with community ambassadors, but no violence interrupters
The wrap-up video highlighted the City of Richmond’s efforts to combat surging gun violence, including through the use of community ambassadors. However, gun violence prevention proved to be a contentious subject for the City this year.
In April, Richmond leaders introduced a wide-sweeping plan to reduce gun violence in Richmond. This plan included devoting $500,000 of ARPA funds to expanding the number of community ambassadors in Richmond. However, a more notable project was the ambitious “violence interrupters” idea that didn’t quite get off the ground this year.
In February, Stoney spoke about the city’s new efforts to reduce the number of lives lost by gun violence by hiring “violence interrupters” — people who would serve as mediators between groups at risk of getting violent with each other. However, by early June, there were still no people filling these positions, and the interrupters were still notably absent in December.
Ultimately, it was a difficult year for gun violence in Richmond. In a crime briefing on Oct. 5, then-Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said violent crime was up 2% in the city compared to that time last year. By early December, 52 people had died in firearm-related homicides in the city of Richmond in 2022.
A new look for major Richmond roads
In this year’s wrap-up video, Stoney praised VDOT for their quick work painting bus lanes in the City with bright red paint to increase safety and visibility. The red lanes are meant to alert drivers when they should leave bus lanes, as well as alert pedestrians that traffic flow is different in certain parts of the road.
City Council first approved the project in April and painting on some major roads wrapped up in July. “BUS ONLY” markings were later added on top of the red paint, and at the end of July, streetscaping work was set to begin on major streets like Broad Street, Hamilton Street, North Belmont Avenue and Wayne Street.
While many praised the project, some residents and business owners expressed concern that bike lanes and parking spaces were not prioritized in the project.
Additional construction is planned for Broad Street going into 2023, including work on the public utility waterline from 3rd Street east to I-95, and the third phase of the Richmond Signal System project.
Highlighting Richmond history with a Mellon Foundation grant
This month, the Mellon Foundation announced it would be giving over $16 million in funding for six Richmond-based projects focused on the city’s history.
The largest share of the funding — $11 million — will go towards the planning and development of the 12,300-square-foot interactive Shocked Heritage Campus Interpretive Center at the Main Street Station. This is part of a larger vision for a Shockoe Heritage Campus, which also includes a memorial park and a National Slavery Museum.
Additional recipients of the funding are:
- The JXN Project ($1.5 million): Research and programming for the history of Richmond, particularly in Jackson Ward, the country’s first historically Black urban neighborhood.
- The Valentine Museum ($1.2 million): Projects involving Edward Valentine’s studio and the Wickham House, a former site of enslavement.
- Cary Forward ($1 million): Art disciplines related to local history narratives.
- Untold RVA ($850,000): Research of Richmond’s history and the development of walkable mobile phone AR tours.
- Reclaiming the Monument ($670,000): The “Recontextualizing Richmond” public art project, in collaboration with the Valentine.