The Mayor is apparently ready to try again with his stadium project! Style Weekly's Ned Oliver reports that Mayor Dwight Jones might fish for additional Richmond City Council votes for his Shockoe Stadium plan by looking to another big project - a new children's hospital.
The Mayor won't try to cram the hospital into Shockoe Bottom. But according to Oliver, Jones' hope is that if the Boulevard redevelopment proposal includes a children's hospital, this might win over a vote or two on the Council. So a children's hospital at the old stadium site, this thinking goes, would pave the way for a new stadium in Shockoe.
But this is no magic bullet, for a number of reasons:
- As Oliver notes, the Mayor still needs more votes: "at least six and possibly seven" thanks to the need for rezoning. Maybe the children's hospital is the last piece that makes skeptics like Parker Agelasto get on board. But with other council members like Jon Baliles and Charles Samuels using the stadium battle for political positioning, this remains a hard road for the mayor.
- It is possible for political proposals to gain enough momentum and steamroll over opponents; a proposal, no matter how strongly opposed, can begin to take on the air of inevitability. (Witness what's going on at the national level with military action against ISIS.) But the mayor and his team have done the exact opposite - never releasing enough details, pushing the plan without building support in City Council, waiting until after the Mayor's election to float the plan, etc. Certainly there are powerful forces in the city who want this proposal to happen, but there's been no wave of support - and no sense that this WILL happen no matter what opponents say.
- The children's hospital is itself an entirely new can of worms, with plenty of issues still to resolve. (Style Weekly ran a great explainer in 2013; all of these issues remain.) The mayor may hope to add allies to his pro-stadium coalition by bringing the hospital in. But it's such a big project, it also brings new enemies, or at least complications. (HCA and VCU may be willing to talk about a hospital, but they're a long way from actually supporting it.) It may make BOTH projects even harder to implement.
This new wrinkle, then, doesn't really increase the chances of a Shockoe Stadium actually happening. It's hard to see how the solution to a major redevelopment battle is to combine it with another major redevelopment battle. Put another way: I don't think anyone ever read Moby Dick and thought, "You know what would have helped Ahab? ANOTHER whale."