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Northam highlights budget, key proposals in State of Commonwealth Address

Gov. Ralph Northam delivered the State of the Commonwealth Address to the General Assembly Wednesday evening. Northam outlined key parts of his proposed budget and announced legislative priorities on what he called a “historic night.” 

Capital News Service

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By Jimmy O’Keefe

Gov. Ralph Northam delivered the State of the Commonwealth Address to the General Assembly Wednesday evening. The governor outlined key parts of his proposed budget and announced legislative priorities on what he called a “historic night.”

Throughout the address, Northam highlighted the changes Virginia underwent in the last decade.

“Virginia is changing. These are simply facts,” Northam said. “In politics over these past 10 years, if you understood these facts and you embraced change, then you advanced. If not, you fell behind.”

Northam cited the state’s growth in population by more than half a million people in the last decade, its low unemployment rate, 2.6% in November, and a booming stock market as signs of change. He also noted the obstacles Virginia faces amid change such as stagnating wages, funding transportation infrastructure and rising sea levels in places like Tangier Island and Hampton Roads.

Northam said that the state’s transformation is reflected in the General Assembly. Wednesday marked the first time in more than two decades that Democrats controlled the legislative and executive branches of state government. A record 41 women now hold seats in the statehouse and there is more diversity among legislators. On Wednesday, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, became the first woman elected to serve as speaker of the House, while Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, became both the first woman and the first African American to serve as House majority leader.

“It’s a proud moment to look out and see a General Assembly that reflects, more than ever, the Virginia we see every day,” Northam said.

Northam detailed key parts of his proposed budget. He announced that 38% of new spending in his proposed budget would go to education.

“This is far and away the largest new investment we have proposed,” Northam said.

Investment in K-12 public schools would go toward teacher salary increases and more guidance counselors in schools, Northam said. He also announced the “G-3” proposal, which stands for “Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Give Back.” The proposal seeks to offer free community college tuition for low and middle-income students seeking to go into high demand fields like health care and information technology. The plan would cover tuition, fees and book costs for people who need help paying for school.

Noting last year’s Medicaid expansion in Virginia, Northam outlined his proposed healthcare budget, which includes funding for more health care workers in communities with high needs, a state-run health care marketplace and funding for new mothers to get more home visits from health care workers.

“We all want it to be more affordable and easier to understand,” Northam said of health care.

Northam reaffirmed his plans to have 30% of Virginia’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, and for Virginia’s energy to be 100% carbon-free by 2050. The governor announced his plan to create an Office of Offshore Wind to promote the use of clean energy.

“This means thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for Hampton Roads,” Northam said. “This will create an entire new clean-energy industry here in Virginia.”

Northam also called for gun control reform.

“Gun violence takes the lives of more than 1,000 Virginians every year, three people every day. At that rate, everyone on the floor of this chamber would be gone by March,” Northam said.

Northam called for universal background checks in order to buy a gun, noting that it wouldn’t be in violation of the Second Amendment to do so.

Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, delivered the Republican response to Northam’s address.

While we Republicans are disappointed to see our two decades in the majority come to an end, we’re proud of the commonwealth we leave to our Democratic successors,” Robinson said.

“Some of the proposals being advanced by Governor Northam and the Democrat legislative majority will have a profoundly negative effect on Virginia’s working families,” Suetterlein stated in the released statement. “If implemented, the Democrats’ agenda will place a substantial burden on working Virginians.”

Suetterlein said that Democratic proposals will lead to higher electric bills, higher fuel prices, and higher taxes.

The governor’s full speech can be read here. 

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Community

Richmond.com Reporting Pop’s On Grace Closing in July

Fans of Pop’s only have a few month’s to hit the spot on Grace.

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From Richmond.com and Karri Piefer

The pandemic, of course, and the devastating financial impact it had on restaurants, is among the reasons the restaurant will close.

“[There are] lots of layered reasons, some stemming from pandemic, but ultimately things can’t be the way they were,” he said. “And the vision has changed.”

But before everyone runs out and tries to crowd the restaurant all at once, remember, there are at least two months of Pop’s opportunities left.

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Community

3rd Street Diner Sold

The exact plans for the space are unknown at this time but it supposedly will be a new restaurant.

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The iconic corner cafe’s sale was announced yesterday.

Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer is pleased to announce the sale of the former 3rd Street Diner property located at 218 East Main Street in the City of Richmond, Virginia.

Ya Hua Zheng & Jianwei Tang purchased the 3,928 square foot retail building from 3rd Street LLC for $550,000 and will operate as a new restaurant.

Reilly Marchant of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer handled the sale negotiations on behalf of the seller.

I’ll confess to having never set foot inside the diner but I’ll be bummed to see the neon go away if they go down that path.

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Downtown

New national study: Downtown Richmond leads City’s growth over two decades

“Downtown Richmond continues to drive economic value, creativity, and innovation for the entire region.”

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Richmond’s downtown is home to more than half the city’s jobs, it has absorbed nearly half of the city’s population growth over the last two decades, and it represents 35% of the city’s total assessed property value, all on less than 5% of the city’s total land area. A study by the International Downtown Association, and recently reported by Venture Richmond, offered this and other insights.

“Downtown has a remarkable concentration of the city’s real estate and cultural assets and has been a growth driver for the City’s transformation. It has also had a significant impact on the image of the entire Region,” said Lucy Meade, Venture Richmond’s director of economic development and community relations.

As part of Venture Richmond’s Annual Community Update, David Downey, President and CEO of the International Downtown Association, provided insights into how downtown Richmond is well-equipped to rebound from the financial challenges stemming from the pandemic while sharing a new study examining the value of Richmond’s downtown.

Various generations – from Generation Z to older populations – continue to have a high demand for the downtown experience, according to Downey. He noted that Richmond’s strong housing market, walkability, quality open spaces, and diversity scores, particularly in downtown, are positive indicators for the future.

“Downtown Richmond continues to drive economic value, creativity, and innovation for the entire region,” Downey said.

With the COVID-19 vaccine distribution continuing, Downey emphasized the need for companies to create productive and efficient plans for returning to the office to address the potential loss of innovation, creativity, and collaboration when working virtually.

During the event, Downey also shared takeaways from The Value of Downtowns and Center Cities, a report that quantifies the value of U.S. downtowns across more than 150 metrics under five core value principles with a focus on how downtowns contribute to the city and region around them. From 2017-2020, the IDA analyzed a total of 37 downtowns and center cities across the country.

The pre-COVID study finds that not only does Richmond’s downtown account for a significant proportion of the region’s jobs, but the city’s core experienced the region’s biggest percentage spike in residential population growth since 2000.

The significant and insightful results from the study included the following highlights. The full report can be found atVentureRichmond.com.

Jobs

Richmond’s downtown accounted for more than half (53%) of the city’s jobs (77,465 out of 147,251) compared to the average of 40% for other “established Downtowns” in the study. Richmond leads the list of “established downtowns” with 63% of the City’s knowledge industry jobs, which is relatively higher than Seattle (58%), Minneapolis (58%), and Miami (52%); compared to the average of 41% for other “established Downtowns.”

The private sector employs 66% of jobs Downtown (50,910 jobs) and knowledge industry jobs account for 35,100 jobs.

Workers in the city center are better educated, comparably. Two in five (39%) of downtown workers have at least a college degree vs. one in three (33%) workers citywide and 31% in the region.

Residential Population

Downtown is young and educated. Today, 40% of our residents are between 18-24, and 30% of residents are between 25-34. The Downtown residential population is well educated with 57% having a bachelor’s degree or higher—up from 40% in 2010 and 40% are enrolled in college.

Most impressive was the increase in residential units, soaring 71% since 2010. However, only 14% of downtown residents own their own homes, but the racial balance of homeowners in downtown is close to even: 51% white vs. 49% non-white.

Economy and Quality of Life

Downtown is an entertainment and tourism destination with 70% of the citywide hotel rooms located Downtown – 16 properties with 2,581 rooms.

According to the report, Richmond’s downtown has one-fourth of the city’s retail businesses (478) and one-third of its restaurants and bars (252). Total annual downtown retail sales of $526 million represent 23% of the city’s retail sales. Non-Downtown residents account for 55% of that economic activity. The city center’s restaurants, bars, and breweries generate a combined $221 million in annual sales, 89% of which come from non-residents.

Downtown received a strong Walk Score of 94% and a Bike Score of 80% compared to other established Downtowns and an average Walk Score of 85% and Bike Score of 70%.

The report found that downtown Richmond’s sustainable transportation numbers left room for improvement with 65% of Downtown residents commuting alone compared to 35% commuting to work using a sustainable form of transportation (i.e. do not drive to work alone).

“As our downtown businesses continue to meet the challenges imposed by the pandemic, this IDA report is a timely reminder of the value that downtown Richmond brings to both the city and the region,” said Lisa Sims, CEO of Venture Richmond.  “Our downtown will always play a significant role in our economic, civic, and cultural lives. As more people receive the vaccine, we are confident in the economic rebound of downtown.”

To view the full IDA report online, visit Venture Richmond’s website here: https://venturerichmond.com/about-us/reports/2020-ida-study-richmond/

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