Details emerge about the Diamond District contender, run by the Machete Group

Downtown Commons in Sacramento, a mixed-use shopping and entertainment complex adjacent to the Golden One Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. (Image courtesy of Machete Group)

More details are coming to light about the six development teams remaining on Richmond’s Diamond District redevelopment project.

A previously unknown team, Richmond Community Development Partners, is led by Machete Group, a Houston-based venue consulting and development management firm whose sports and entertainment work includes the Barclays Center in New York City, the Chase Center in San Francisco and the Amway Center in Orlando, and Toyota Center in Houston.

Also on the team is JMA Ventures, a San Francisco-based company that has developed Sacramento’s Downtown Commons, a mixed-use shopping and entertainment complex adjacent to the Golden One Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Another member of the team is Sterling American Property, a New York-based company that once owned the New York Mets and developed the Major League Baseball team’s Citi Field stadium.

David Carlock

Machete’s boss and founder, David Carlock, was also involved in several notable developments in the mixed-use and entertainment space. The Harvard graduate started at The Walt Disney Co., where he was involved in the strategic planning of Downtown Disney and its ESPN Zone restaurant and venue.

He has also worked for the Hard Rock Cafe and the Houston Rockets and managed operations for the NBA team’s Toyota Center after overseeing design and construction.

The Richmond Community Development Partners team also includes several companies that are either based in Richmond or have a proven track record here. These include construction company Gilbane, hotel management and consulting firm Retro Hospitality, architectural firm Hanbury, engineering firm VHB, marketing agency BrownBaylor, public relations firm The Hodges Partnership, visual artist Hamilton Glass and planning for the non-profit Storefront for Community Design.

In an interview this week, Carlock said the team is finding a balance of local representation and out-of-town experience, not just in venue development, but also in low-income housing, green space integration and other components needed for the 67-acre mixed-use area be searched. Use project that would include a replacement for The Diamond ballpark.

“We have learned from experience that these large projects require a significant team,” said Carlock. “We’ve gotten pretty good at building project teams that combine the best of national and local know-how. I think that you often get the best results when you combine these things.”

Carlock named more than 20 members of the team, which is among the six still being considered for the project. These teams were asked to provide additional information after the city shortened its list of 15 who responded to the project’s original solicitation. Those details will be returned to the city on April 25.

A judging panel would then select a shortlist of finalists, who would be invited to submit proposals by early June. A final selection is targeted later this month.

Carlock declined to reveal details about his team’s proposal, but did discuss their approach to the project in general. He said the Diamond District project offers opportunities that require a diverse team with different areas of expertise.

Machete’s portfolio includes Industry City, a redevelopment of 35 acres of Sunset Park in New York.

“One of the interesting things about the Diamond District is that for its size it offers some interesting opportunities for district-wide infrastructure solutions. Things like geothermal energy or (photovoltaic) systems or district cooling. All of these are opportunities that align with our strong interest and commitment to maximizing sustainability and resilience.”

Although there is more to the project than just replacing The Diamond, Carlock said the priority is first and foremost to meet the deadline set by Major League Baseball to bring all professional baseball facilities up to new standards. The project envisages a new 10,000-capacity stadium to replace the 37-year-old Diamond, whose renovation was deemed unfeasible.

“We understand how tight the schedule is to deliver by opening day 2025,” said Carlock. “Also, we and our team have done a lot of stadium development and made sure to put together a full stadium design team. If we are lucky enough to be awarded the contract here, we would recommend that the city be on site as soon as possible to ensure we meet the date.”

Leading the team’s stadium design is Odell Architects, whose sports and entertainment portfolio includes BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, home of Minor League Baseball’s Charlotte Knights. Other architects on the team include Moody Nolan, which Carlock says is the largest black-owned architecture firm in the country.

The participation of minority businesses is encouraged in the city’s bidding for the project. Other minority-owned companies in Carlock’s team include engineering firm VoltAir, city consulting firm Brick & Story, and the aforementioned BrownBaylor.

In addition to the new stadium, the project is also expected to include a mix of office, residential, retail and hotel developments, as well as infrastructure upgrades such as water, sewerage and roads. The residential component would consist of houses for rent and for sale, which would include some units aimed at low-income households.

For the latter, Carlock’s team includes Enterprise Community Development, the Maryland-based firm behind a trio of home rehabilitation projects completed in Richmond in recent years.

The 140-plus acres of the Diamond District are bounded by Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage Road, the Interstate and the railroad tracks. (BizSense file images)

Other team members include design firm EDSA, landscape architect Rhodeside Harwell, engineering firm Stantec, placemaking consultants Biederman Redevelopment Ventures and Selbert Perkins Design, and environmental consultant Biohabitats.

Carlock noted that VHB, another engineering firm on the team, also features on other Diamond District teams. He said Gilbane took the lead in putting together the team after working with Machete on other projects.

In addition to basketball arenas and entertainment venues, Machete’s portfolio includes Major League Soccer’s new TQL Stadium in Cincinnati and Industry City, a mixed-use redevelopment of a 35-acre section of Sunset Park in New York.

Carlock said he was drawn to the Diamond District project in part through Navy Hill, the unsuccessful plan to redevelop the Richmond Coliseum, and after hiring an intern to identify new market opportunities for machete.

“One of the markets that he came back with was Richmond, Virginia, which just wasn’t on our radar screen,” he said. “That’s what initially led us to focus on what’s happening here, and we had a strategic partner involved in some of the work around Navy Hill. So we kind of followed that.”

While Carlock is mostly run by out-of-town firms, he said his team shouldn’t be written off for it.

“We are almost always the people from outside. Technically, we’re based in Houston. But the projects we worked on and delivered are over,” he said.

The area that makes up the Diamond District includes the ballpark of the same name and nearby Sports Backers Stadium.

Carlock added: “Someone who has some fresh ideas and perspective that is not heavily influenced by what has been done in a particular market can often be helpful. At the same time, you need a really strong local presence and participation. In our opinion, making sure you have a combination of these voices will give you the best result. We never show up thinking we have the answers.”

The other five teams still in the running are:

  • Diamond District Gateway Partnerscomprised of local real estate investment firm Capital Square, DC-based developers Dantes Partners and Hoffman & Associates, Maryland-based real estate firm The Velocity Cos., local architectural firm Baskervill, and Missouri-based architectural firm Pendulum.
  • MAG partnera New York City-based developer.

RVA Diamond PartnerTeam members unknown.

Vision300 Partners LLCa Richmond-based team that includes local staffing firm Astyra Corp., nonprofit housing coalition Better Housing Coalition, homebuilder Canterbury Enterprises, homebuilder Hourigan, Metropolitan Business League, Shamin Hotels, developer Spy Rock Real Estate Group and YMCA of Greater Richmond include .

Weller Development Co. and LMXDcomposed of Weller, a Baltimore-based developer, and LMXD, which is affiliated with L+M Development Partners of New York.

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