New York developer MAG Partners is co-leading team pitching for the Diamond District project

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)

An East Coast developer and West Coast peer are collaborating to evaluate Richmond’s Diamond District project.

New York-based MAG Partners and Seattle-based MacFarlane Partners drive one of the six teams that continue to bid for the mixed-use redevelopment of city-owned land that would include a replacement for The Diamond ballpark.

MAG is led by MaryAnne Gilmartin, whose development projects include the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn and the mixed-use development at Pacific Park Brooklyn. Other projects include the New York Times headquarters and the 76-story New York by Gehry skyscraper.

Mary Anne Gilmartin

Gilmartin, who founded MAG in 2020, helped drive this effort during her years as an executive at Forest City Ratner Cos. and the last five years as CEO. (Forest City worked on Barclays with David Carlock of Machete Group, a venue consultancy that leads a separate team of candidates for the Diamond District).

MacFarlane Partners — not to be confused with the Richmond firm of the same name, led by local developer Charles Macfarlane — is a 35-year-old company whose development work includes a 54-story high-rise hotel and condominium at LA Live, an entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.

The company, run by Victor MacFarlane, is one of the largest black-owned development firms in the country, according to Gilmartin, who said they have worked on other projects.

Also on the team is Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, a DC-based development firm, which was one of the 15 responses to the Diamond District’s initial RFI. Gilmartin said Jair Lynch had joined her team in recent weeks after his RFI response failed to make the final cut. The company’s focus is on the development of apartment buildings.

Another recent addition is MSquared, a real estate development and investment firm headed by Alicia Glen, a former Deputy Mayor of New York City under the Bill de Blasio administration.

The team is rounded out by the architectural offices of AtelierTek and Woods Bagot; engineering firm Kimley-Horn, which has an office in Richmond; sports facility developer CAA Icon, whose stadium-related work includes Chicago’s 1060 project and Guaranteed Rate Field; placemaking and staffing firm C Space; and civil engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti.

With his team, Gilmartin said in an interview this week: “I would argue that for this RFP response we need to have one of the most diverse groups of talent in the mix just because I know how difficult it is to put a team like this together.” .

“We really like what the government has done by organizing this tender. It’s ambitious, it’s big, and as a result, we’ve assembled a team that goes well beyond the CVs and credentials of MAG partners,” she said.

Gilmartin said her firm identified Richmond as an emerging market in which to do business when the Diamond District’s RFI came on its radar, prompting discussions with MacFarlane and Jair Lynch. She said Richmond’s culture, food scene and evolving demographics poised it to become one of the country’s next hotspots.

“We still have a lot to learn, but what we know about Richmond is super exciting for us. We definitely think it’s a city to see,” she said.

“Because my team in particular was part of the renaissance of Brooklyn – we spent a lot of time creating a place in Brooklyn at a time when it really didn’t have the halo effect it has today – we learned a lot in the process Wise, and what we’re seeing in Richmond really aligns with what we’re doing in our careers.”

The Arena Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which opened in 2012, anchors the larger mixed-use development Pacific Park Brooklyn, also in which MAG Partners’ MaryAnne Gilmartin was a partner. (Images courtesy of MAG Partners)

Though different in market and size, Gilmartin said the 67-acre Diamond District project is similar to the 8-acre Pacific Park Brooklyn development, which is anchored by Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty of the WNBA.

“It was really the cornerstone to kickstart the whole large-scale development because it has a public purpose and brings a lot to the community. We have a very similar view of the RFP in Richmond,” she said.

“It was a controversial project in its early days. One of the reasons I think it’s universally accepted by the people of Brooklyn is that it’s a very good neighbor in terms of the way it was planned, the way it was built, and the way it works . It was all thanks to the work we put in over the years.”

The 38th sixth apartments next to Barclays Center.

Gilmartin said her team would take a similar approach to that used in the Diamond District, while learning lessons from over a decade of working on Barclays and Pacific Park Brooklyn.

“The only way you really know how to do it is to have it done,” she said. “All of that experience will come into play in Richmond. The public trust that underpins this commitment needs to be recognized and I believe we are uniquely able to do that.”

MAG’s team is one of six the city is considering for the next phase of the process: an invitation to submit development proposals. After being selected from the first 15 RFI respondents, the teams were asked to provide additional information about themselves and their approach to the project. The deadline for these details is this Monday, April 25th.

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.

In addition to a new 10,000-capacity stadium to replace the 37-year-old Diamond, whose renovation was deemed unfeasible, the Diamond District project calls for a mix of office, residential, retail and hotel development as upgrades to the Infrastructure 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.

While local efforts to position the site for the redevelopment have ebbed and flowed for over a decade, Gilmartin said the project’s history gives her team confidence that this latest attempt will be seen through — as will Major League Baseball’s deadline for the Richmond Flying Squirrels to find a facility that meets new pro baseball standards by the start of the 2025 season.

“I have a joke that sometimes things have to die three times before they live,” Gilmartin said. “Part of what I like about it is that the process was super thought out, and because it has certain built-in timelines, there’s a certain level of engagement around this RFP, because of the needs of the squirrels and some other requirements of that.” makes us pretty sure something is going to happen here.”

She added: “It feels right, it feels ready and it feels highly qualified on the government’s part.”

Gilmartin declined to discuss her team’s vision for the project in detail, saying they have shared more than just their qualifications with the city and are open to expanding or changing the team’s makeup as needed for the project. City officials have said the final choice for the project could be one or more developers or teams for all parts of the development.

Seattle-based MacFarlane Partners developed the 54-story hotel and condominium tower at LA Live.

“While I can’t go into the details, I can tell you that this submission we’re doing is so much more than just an introduction,” Gilmartin said. “The level of work and thought required of us is considerable, and in my opinion, although it is a lot of work, it also speaks to the legitimacy of the planning organizations, the seriousness of the government in actually doing something.”

Referring to the arguments over whether the project should be mainly contracted out to local or out-of-town teams, Gilmartin added: “We should always think locally, but there’s a certain amount of ideas and excitement that can come from having the team from open outside only the borders of Richmond and Virginia. It should be inclusive, and it should also have a local cast.

“If our lineup isn’t local enough because we need to bring in more local expertise, we’re totally open to that and we’ve made that very clear,” she said. “But I also think that after running a company with 26 offices across the country, we can all learn from each other.

“Obviously, Richmond isn’t Brooklyn,” Gilmartin added, “but at the same time, we believe we can contribute in a way that’s very conducive to the process, and the ideas will likely be new.” There has been a local effort in this district for quite some time and I think there is a desire for new ideas and new thinking. But that doesn’t have to be at the expense of local expertise.”

The other five teams still in the running are:

Diamond District Gateway Partnersconsisting 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.

Richmond Community Development PartnersLed by Houston-based Machete Group and comprised of developers JMA Ventures and Sterling Project Development, construction company Gilbane, hotel management and consulting firm Retro Hospitality, architectural firm Hanbury, engineering firm VHB, and planning for the nonprofit Storefront for Community Design.

RVA Diamond PartnerTeam members unknown.

Vision300 Partners LLC, includes local builder Hourigan; Brookfield Wealth Management; developers Greenstone Properties, KDC and Spy Rock Real Estate Group; the non-profit Better Housing Coalition, construction company Canterbury Enterprises, Shamin Hotels, YMCA of Greater Richmond and New York-based sports club Sports United.

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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