Richmond has long been home to thriving Black businesses, and it’s exciting to know that the future looks bright for the few such businesses selected to help develop the new Diamond District on the city’s North End.
Indeed, Richmond-born great tennis legend Arthur Ashe, for whom Arthur Ashe Boulevard is named and the Diamond District will be built on, will be pleased to see the next batch of Black-owned businesses help drive development and growth. He is in his hometown on 67 acres and only a few kilometers from where he grew up.
After his tennis career ended and before his untimely death in 1993, Mr. Ashe had a solid business career that included positions as a commentator for HBO Sports and ABC Sports, and as a columnist for the Washington Post and Tennis magazine. “A Hard Road to Victory,” a three-volume work in which he served as captain of the USA Davis Cup team, and the National Junior Tennis League, ABC Cities Tennis Program, Athlete-Career Connection, and the Safe Transition Foundation.
“An important key to success is self-confidence,” said Mr. Ashe. “An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Mr. Ashe’s out-of-court legacy should not only be valued, but scrutinized by Black male and female business owners eager to further expand their fortunes in the myriad opportunities offered by the pending Diamond District.
At the Richmond Free Press last week, reporter Jeremy M. Lazarus revealed plans for a $2.4 billion mixed-use project that includes a new baseball stadium. Leading the project is RVA Diamond Partners, whose members are 45 percent Black.
Among its largest members is Republic Properties Corp. of Washington, DC. It is part of the commercial real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield Alliance.
Loop Capital is a 25-year-old investment bank based in Chicago, founded by its chairman and CEO, James Reynolds Jr.
The companies are eager to get started and expect the project to hit the fast track next week. Despite the lack of financial details, seven City Council members have already committed to passing a resolution that approves the city’s selection of the development team, paving the way for a final agreement to be reached. The Council will vote on its support on Monday, September 26.
Meanwhile, seven Richmond-area Black-owned businesses or individuals are part of the RVA Diamond Partners team.
These include Michael A. “Mike” Hopkins and its development arm M Companies and construction company Enterprise Construction of Richmond; contractor Kenneth Jones’ Prestige Construction Group, Chesterfield County; Grace Washington’s J&G Workforce Development Services LLC; and Black muralist Sir James Thornhill.
Also on the list are the city-based Kei Architecture of Robert L. Easter, who was part of the design team, and the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, created by three women, Kelli Lemon, Shemicia Bowen and Amy Wentz. operation of an on-site dining hall.
Also on the list is Ervin B. Clarke, president and CEO of the Central Virginia African-American Chamber of Commerce, who will become the founding publisher and minority business coordinator of Urban Views Weekly.
Hull Street-based Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation will also participate.
Other black-owned companies include the Robert Bobb Group, a Washington DC-based public and private business management consulting firm run by former Richmond City Manager Robert C. Bobb; and Capstone Development, a hotel, residential and mixed-use development company located in Chevy Chase, Md. and managed by its founder and president, Norman K. Jenkins.
Additionally, Prince George’s County, Md., led by founder Raymond Nix. NixDevCo, a real estate development and consulting group based in the Black Sea region, is among the Black-owned businesses. Founded by Kia Weatherspoon.
The partnership has also committed to working with Virginia Union University to launch its hotel and accommodation education program. And the group wants to work with Richmond Public Schools to develop a construction training center in a former tobacco factory on Maury Street on the South Side that Altria has donated to the school system. Representatives said the partnership is ready to invest $40 million to make this happen.
Jay Smith, spokesperson for RVA Diamond Partners of the team’s public relations firm Capital Results, said the list is expected to expand over time.
He said the list of potential black-owned and minority construction firms has been compiled, with the expectation that some will receive contracts and subcontractors as development begins.
Congratulations and best wishes to Black-owned businesses as they prepare to make their mark on Richmond’s future.
Or as Arthur Ashe or any legendary athlete might say: “Game on.”