The General District and Riverfront Overlay Districts

In 1990, the City of Richmond established the Downtown General Special Service and Assessment District to provide special enhanced services in Downtown. The primary district is known as the General District and a map of the area is below. There are also Riverfront Overlay Districts which include the properties along the riverfront and generally south of Byrd Street.

Special Service and Assessment Districts, as they are named in Virginia, are similar to Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which exist in many cities in the United States and around the world.

The funding for Richmond’s Downtown enhanced services is provided through a public-private partnership between Venture Richmond and the City of Richmond. The City’s share of the program comes from annual Municipal Services grants, which is the public sector investment. The private sector investment comes from the assessments paid by property owners within the Districts.

In Richmond’s General District, comprised of about 440 square blocks on the north side of the river and roughly 82 square blocks on the south side of the river, the property and business owners within the District pay a special assessment of $0.05/$100 of assessed value. In the Riverfront Overlay Districts, there are several districts, and the property and business owners pay an additional special assessment ranging from $0.035/$100 of assessed value to $0.11/$100 of assessed value.

Venture Richmond is under contract with the City of Richmond to manage the districts and provide enhanced services to Downtown and the Riverfront districts. Those services include things like:

  • Providing the Clean and Safe program (sidewalk cleaning, litter and leaf collection, tree well maintenance, weed eradication, etc.
  • Activating, managing, and beautifying public spaces (Brown’s Island and Canal Walk), landscaping, planters, hanging baskets, etc.)
  • Marketing and promoting Downtown and its neighborhoods as a place to live, work, play and invest.
  • Neighborhood placemaking enhancements (bike racks, murals, parklets, etc.)
  • Promoting economic development and tracking the investment in Downtown
  • Producing festivals and events that drive visitors to Downtown neighborhoods

The Manchester District

Property and business owners in the Manchester neighborhood worked with their neighborhood organizations and Venture Richmond from 2021-2023 on a plan to expand the Downtown General Special Service and Assessment District into Manchester to fund enhanced services and improvements.

Manchester is one of, if not, the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city. The private sector has invested over $800 million in the development in the neighborhood, and more is in the pipeline, adding over 5000 residential units (completed or underway). There are new restaurants and new commercial spaces as well. Manchester is generating new tax revenues for the City and the property and business owners are willing to fund enhanced services as part of a public/private partnership with the City. This is a way for the City to reinvest some of those revenues back into the neighborhood.

With an expansion of the current Downtown General Special Service and Assessment District, the property and business owners would pay $0.05/$100 of assessed value for enhanced services, just like the property owners in the rest of Downtown. In turn, the property owners have asked the City to be an annual 50/50 funding partner at $400,000. City Council put $300,000 in the 2023 budget as a match to the private sector investment.

The planning and conversation regarding enhanced services includes items like:

  • Expand the Downtown Clean & Safe program to an 80-block area in Manchester and provide consistent sidewalk cleaning, litter pick-up, leaf removal, and weed control and elimination. Power wash homeless hotspots, as needed.
  • Enhance and maintain tree wells. Distribute pet waste bags in key pet locations; remove pet waste from sidewalks and tree wells.
  • Strengthen Manchester’s Infrastructure and connections to Downtown.
  • Assess neighborhood infrastructure needs; advocate for on-street trash cans and bus shelters.
  • Assess bike rack needs and fund bike racks around the neighborhood.
  • Work with the neighborhood to develop marketing strategies and a communication plan.
  • Market and promote retail and restaurants, particularly along the Hull Street corridor.
  • Advocate for more City Investment.
  • Work with neighborhood organizations to advocate for safer streets which includes lighting, traffic calming and pedestrian safety, priorities include Hull St. and Commerce Road.
  • Advocate for City CIP investments in Manchester by engaging the City and developers in planning and determining priorities.

For more information and context on how other US cities manage and run their special assessment districts, read this informative article from the International Downtown Association.