Stoney reflects on development, growth during final State of the City address
The mayor lamented failed Navy Hill and casino projects.
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe was in attendance Tuesday at the Science Museum of Virginia for Mayor Levar Stoney’s final State of the City address.
Stoney — who worked on McAuliffe's 2013 bid for governor — has already begun his own campaign for the commonwealth’s top post, but used the address to assure residents that Richmond’s best days are ahead.
“We're also working to reverse course on development deals from before my time as mayor that didn't make sense for Richmond's future,” Stoney said. “We are taking back that space for the public, and using it to support our children and families that call Richmond home.”
On Tuesday, Stoney highlighted Richmond’s growing population, noting an 11% increase between 2010 and 2020. According to an estimate by UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the city’s population also saw a 1.1% increase from 2022 to 2023. Stoney credited the uptick to a diversity of businesses choosing Richmond as the site of their headquarters, “instead of writing us off” — and referenced a ranking that put the capital at No. 8 among U.S. cities for headquarter projects.
Stoney acknowledged several infrastructure projects — including the $2.4-billion Diamond District project — that began since he took office in 2017. The mayor also discussed repurposing the former Washington Commanders training grounds — not far from the Diamond — into a public space under the management of the Parks and Recreation department.
Progress on pedestrian infrastructure was also touted.
“We've paved 1,200 lane miles, including communities like Gilpin and Davee Gardens, which hadn't been done in decades,” Stoney said.
The mayor pointed out that the city repaired almost 232 blocks worth of sidewalks, and added 50 miles of bike lanes and 437 traffic-calming measures during his tenure.
But Stoney said the work isn’t complete, adding that over 100 speed tables are scheduled for installation by July.
“As the clock hits 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, I want 80 percent of our roads to be considered in good condition,” he said. “Now, if the next administration follows in our footsteps, 100 percent of our roads could be in good condition in the next few years.”
Richmond Public Schools
Stoney touted increased Richmond Public Schools funding, as well as hiking teacher salaries. He also said about $200 million would be allocated for new schools, including construction of Richmond High School for the Arts — formerly George Wythe High School — and $15 million to rebuild William Fox Elementary School.
He also delivered updates on the Pathways Program, which was designed to help RPS graduates gain access to and navigate the community college system. With an initial investment of almost $2.4 million, the program provides a traditional scholarship paired with a monthly cash allowance, mentorship and additional support. Five Richmond high schools are currently participating.
While ticking off achievements, Stoney acknowledged improvements could be made to current tax collection policies, saying the priority should be to collect taxes as easily and efficiently as possible.
“My administration, working with City Council and members of the General Assembly, will address some of the draconian tax policies that are in current state and local laws,” he said, echoing recent statements made by other city officials.
He committed to making online payments free for residents and business owners, and said completing the implementation of RVAPay will make it easier for people to review their accounts. The new payments system could affect what businesses locate in the city.
“As the mayor of Richmond, it is my duty to try to bring new jobs and economic opportunity to Richmonders — to all Richmonders — which is why I supported projects in the past, such as Navy Hill and the casino. That, unfortunately, didn't work out. But folks, I had to try,” Stoney said.
When he took office in 2017, Stoney said he wanted to prepare Richmond to seize the future and be a place where young people want to move in and raise their families.
“This administration is about making changes that will impact Richmond's future for generations to come,” the mayor said Tuesday. “We are not just putting Band-Aids on old city problems so that the next administration can deal with them.”