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BizSense Beat: Oct. 20, 2023

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BizSense Beat is a weekly collaboration between VPM News and Richmond BizSense that brings you the top business stories during NPR's Morning Edition on Fridays.

Here’s a recap of the top stories for the week of Oct. 20, 2023:

JLARC poised to examine VCU Health in light of failed development
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jonathan Spiers

Scrutiny over the failed downtown development that cost VCU Health $73 million to back out of is prompting a closer look by the Virginia General Assembly’s investigative arm.

A subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission included the health system among topics it is likely to study in the coming year, according to recommendations submitted Monday to JLARC staff. The staff will next draw up resolutions for consideration by the full commission at its meeting on Nov. 13.

VCU Health was one of several suggested topics that staff proposed to the subcommittee at Monday’s meeting, specifically the aborted redevelopment of Richmond’s old Public Safety Building and the health system’s governance structure, which has drawn scrutiny from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

‘Wait till they really hear the deal’: Despite efforts, doomed VCU Health development couldn’t be saved
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jonathan Spiers

In the days after Art Kellermann relented and agreed to sign off on a costly downtown development deal he’d adamantly opposed, the then-VCU Health CEO’s colleagues who’d urged him to OK the project shared, over email, a collective sigh of relief.

In a message to Karol Gray, a high-level administrator with Virginia Commonwealth University who helped secure Kellermann’s compliance, fellow administrator Jay Bonfili said: “I met with Art this morning. I do not sense that (the project) will continue to be problematic.”

“Thank goodness,” replied Matt Conrad, vice president for government and external relations for VCU and VCU Health, when Gray shared Bonfili’s email minutes later. “So grateful for your engagement.”

Gray and Conrad had lobbied Kellermann on behalf of VCU President Michael Rao, who also is president of the health system and chairs its Board of Directors. Kellermann’s signature meant a seeming end to months of internal consternation over VCU Health anchoring the $325 million redevelopment of the city’s old Public Safety Building at 500 N. 10th St. downtown.

Riverfront amphitheater project ramping up this week
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jonathan Spiers

With another Richmond Folk Festival in the books, work is about to get rolling on the highly anticipated riverfront amphitheater that’s planned to keep the Tredegar hillside rocking.

Fencing is going up and site work is starting on the Richmond Amphitheater, the 7,500-capacity venue from Coran Capshaw’s Red Light Ventures that’s planned to open in spring 2025.

The developer behind Charlottesville’s Ting Pavilion has made recent filings with the city’s permit office, including for a building permit that was awarded the same day for temporary construction trailers and new buildings on the 4-acre site uphill from the Tredegar Iron Works complex.

Bruce Hazelgrove, chief administrative officer for NewMarket Corp., which owns the land and is leasing the site, said work was scheduled to start this week as soon as folk festival crews were done packing up.

Fred Funk and Friends: Richmond’s other big-name golf tournament
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Michael Schwartz

As the Dominion Energy Charity Classic descends this week onto Country Club of Virginia for the eighth straight year, another, less publicized golf tournament was played at another, lesser-known local golf course.

The Fred Funk and Friends Golf Gala took place Monday at Kanawha Club in Goochland.

The event, held quietly each year as a sort of unofficial kickoff event for the DECC, features around two dozen of the same golf pros who play on the PGA Tour Champions, which has brought the DECC to Richmond each year since 2016.

Fred Funk and Friends was born, fittingly, out of the friendship between Fred Funk, a longtime pro golfer who joined Tour Champions in 2006, and Bobby Sandford, a local Air Force veteran and seasoned pilot and flight instructor.

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