Downtown Richmond’s ‘development not displacement’ project

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One of two vacant lots set for a major mixed-use development at 12th Street and Macdonald Avenue.

For an idea of the level of importance being placed upon current development projects in downtown Richmond, check out the latest city-sponsored insert in the San Francisco Business Times.

On its front page, the advertising supplement, highlighting all that is new and great about Richmond, features developer Ernst Valery of SAA|EVI.

SAA|EVI is behind two major, possibly game-changing downtown projects: the Richmond Business Hub, which is under construction in the large retail space beneath the Richmond BART parking garage, and also the planned mixed-use development on Macdonald Avenue between 11th and 12th streets bringing potentially 378 housing units and 54,000 square feet of commercial space to the corridor.

RELATED: Richmond Business Hub to be transformative for downtown

Perhaps the largest sentiment in the Business Times article is one of social justice. As its headlines boldly states, A model for inclusive development: How the builder behind a downtown Richmond project is planning for development without displacement.

It’s not just a headline, but a “bigger picture” promise to revitalize downtown that has involved city officials, local organizations such as the Richmond Main Street Initiative, local businesses including area construction firms and Chevron, and a developer intending to implement a model that aims to lift up existing residents rather than push them out.

“This model seeks to bring all the benefits associated with development — increased investment, better business opportunities for residents, affordable housing for workers priced out of their neighborhoods — without losing current residents along the way,” according to the article penned by the city in collaboration with the SF Business Times.

That was certainly the goal behind the Richmond Business Hub, which celebrated a groundbreaking in July inside the 10,000 square-foot ground floor space of the Richmond BART parking garage at 17th and Macdonald. The hub will soon house the business incubator CoBiz Richmond, one of several economic investment projects funded by Chevron’s $10 million eQuip Richmond initiative, as well as a coffee shop and food hall operating out of hip, recently-installed shipping containers.

First launched in 2013, eQuip Richmond makes strategic investments to boost resources and opportunities for existing small businesses and entrepreneurs in Richmond and North Richmond. Along with CoBiz, eQuip Richmond funded the launch of the Construction Resource Center, which prepares local residents, contractors and construction companies for future economic development projects in the region, including SAA|EVI’s planned mixed-use development at 11th and 12th streets. The eQuip Richmond initiative also helped launch Pogo Park Products, a for-profit, skills-training business staffed entirely by Iron Triangle residents that creates park designs and products for communities.

RELATED: Construction Resource Center launched to make Richmond job-ready

SAA|EVI’s large footprint downtown employs a model that emphasizes “long-term returns over short-term profits.” The developer is building a transit-oriented project that will include affordable rates for some units, and said it plans to provide resources for existing neighbors on how they can benefit from increased downtown commercial activity.

“For example,” according to the article, “the firm will hold community meetings where residents can learn about how to best take advantage of the increasing value of their homes.”

Valery adds, “Developers need to create a culture that looks at the bigger picture. This country is about inclusion. Inclusion is something we can’t avoid.”

To read the full Business Times insert on Richmond, click here.

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